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Sunday, 25 November 2012

Feeling a Bit Uncertain? If You Are the Leader, You Make the Decision!


Looking over some of the blogs I have posted during the past three years, it seems that I have listed a significant number of leadership functions as being “primary”.

It really emphasises the need for a leader to be something of a polymath; to be able to cover all the bases while still being in a position to take action outside the normal and as necessary.

It’s a tough call but the great leaders seem to take it n their stride.  The fact is that the decision making process is central to the position of leader and that would apply to all the other functions.  Simply put, if the leader is indecisive, then however able he/she is in other ways, they are as nothing in the face of indecision.

Most of the great (benign, I do not include well known dictators)) leaders generally prefer an inclusive style of management with sensible consultation with either teams or specialists in order to come to a satisfactory conclusion.

An authoritarian leadership style is usually very decisive but frequently without the benefit of advice from anyone else (it’s often called “gut feel”) and this can lead to an enhanced need for problem solving.

Great leaders have in their make-up a level of humility which tells them that they really don’t know everything and discussions and consultation with others who perhaps know a bit more can only be beneficial.

In the end, of course, someone needs to make the decision and that is more often than not is the province of the leader.

Coming as I do from an engineering background I am well aware that some people like to have as much information as is humanly or Gooley possible  before they attempt to come to a conclusion.  It’s called “paralysis by analysis” and it generally stifles decision making.

Equally, the structure of the organisation is important; partnerships, for example, seem to have been set up with the prime intention of making decisions impossible.

I recall a member of my Vistage CE group some years ago who was Managing Partner of a large law firm.  We were discussing decision making and I rather naively ventured that it should be relatively simple as all they needed was consensus among the 26 or so partners.

He looked at me with a mixture of incomprehension and pity. 

“Consensus?” he almost shouted: “They don’t know the meaning of the word.  They insist that every decision must be unanimous”.

I timidly suggested that this could mean a slowing up of the decision making process and he growled: “You could say that!”

The whole point of this is that while it makes a great deal of sense for the leader to consult and take advice from both internal and external sources, in the end it is the leader’s primary function (there I go again) to make the decision, for good or ill.

It is, as I said before, a tough call and that is why the leader is in that position.  It will often lead to change and managing that is another issue which is in the province of the leader.

Frankly, it never ends and that is why the position of leader is both demanding and exhilarating.  It demands, amongst others, humility, awareness, sensitivity understanding, creativity and, above all, decisiveness.

If you have all that lot, you’ve got it made. 
 
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