Decision-making is a basic ingredient of leadership. It is not important whether the leader actually comes up with the proposed actions or simply endorses them. The key is that the leader does make decisions. He or she overcomes the fear of failing or being second-guessed.
A leader gathers as many facts as possible, consults with stakeholders and then decided on a course of actions. Once the decision is made the effective leader does not waste time on second thoughts. The thrust of such a person is always forwards – looking for the next challenge, focusing on the next decision.
Every effective leader occasionally makes a poor decision. When this occurs, what counts is how the leader handles the situation. Those that willingly admit their mistakes and take coordinates do not expect their leaders to be perfect. They are willing to accept some errors as long as the leader holds to the principle of trying to do what is right for the organization as a whole. What they do resent, however, is a leader who reverse a decision when pressured by a few vocal individuals or a special interest group.
In today’s work environment it is imperative that stakeholders be involved, one way or another, in the decision-making process. People in the work force are better educated and more self directed than their elders. They do not expect to make all of the decisions themselves, but as a minimum they want to be consulted and be able to fully express their thoughts and ideas before important actions are taken.
Why is it important to involve stakeholders in decision making? The obvious reason, of course, is that better decisions are possible when different opinions and ideas are considered. More importantly, people carry out decisions that they have participated in making much more enthusiastically than they carry out orders from the boss. It has been proven over and over again that involvement leads to commitment.
Most effective leaders entrust able members of their company / department with the responsibility of solving their own problems whenever possible. Such leaders facilitate and guide this process to ensure that decisions are timely and do not adversely affect other work groups. For most matters the approach by asking subordinates to study a problem and then take appropriate action, will result in excellent decisions, not only in the quality of decisions, but also in developing subordinates into leaders.
However, do not permit such latitude when the issue is controversial or when an unpopular decision must be made. Under such circumstances always seek the opinions and advice of your stakeholders and then make the decision yourself. Try to give everyone a chance to be heard, to agree or disagree as they see fit. At times do deliberately encourage debate by taking an opposing position to the majority viewpoint or by asking another staff member to do so. Open, spirited discussion creates a sense of satisfaction and commitment to the decisions that are eventually made. After hearing all sides and asking numerous questions, either make the decision on the spot or set a final date for doing so. This way everyone knows that action will be taken.
Obviously, you cannot please everyone with your decisions nor should you try. The important thing, once again, is that stakeholders have a say about major issues that impact them. After that the leader must make the tough calls by saying, “This is what we’ll do.”
(By Peter Frans – Principal Consultant)