Leaders don’t make tough decisions…

…they live for them.

Making hard decisions is – well – hard! Pulling the trigger on a decision which has a material impact on others or balances significant risk and reward can be trying. Many people know how to analyze, opine, and criticize these decisions, yet very few are good at actually making them. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned about strong decision-making.

  • Be deliberate and thoughtful – difficult decisions should not be made on a whim. Even in critical situations where time is of the essence, take a few moments to consider the ramifications of your decision, ponder alternatives, and weigh pros and cons. Trusting your gut and making an emotional, thoughtless decision are two different things. Validate your gut with deliberate thought.
  • Be confident – there is nothing that will undermine and sabotage a decision more than the decision-maker expressing a lack of confidence. A weak decision can be worse than no decision (and no decision is a decision in and of itself). Mediocre strategies and tactics can be overcome when they are executed with passion and confidence. The best strategies and tactics in the world cannot overcome timid and weak execution.
  • Be timely – do not let difficult decisions linger. Once you have weighed the situation appropriately, act! Pondering a decision for too long causes confusion, wastes time, and decreases the time you have to adjust if your decision proves to be less than ideal. Fail fast. Fail often. No matter how long you take, you will not make a perfect decision. Is 98% certainty really better than 95% if you’ve lost days of execution and potentially the time needed to refine your approach? If you’re sending a man to the moon, potentially, otherwise, I sincerely doubt it. Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis.

Decision-making is a key component of strong leadership. Leaders who quickly, thoughtfully, and confidently make difficult decisions build credibility – even when their decisions turn out to be wrong every now and then. Strong leaders thrive off of making decisions and guiding others through uncertain times.

Do you have what it takes to lead in uncertain times? Do you get an adrenaline rush from making a difficult decision or do you have weak knees? How have you overcome these tendencies? What are some other characteristics of strong decision-making?

One Comment Add yours

  1. Kind of an old article, but thought I’d comment anyway.

    There is an implication in this that “good leaders make decisions… alone”. That’s part of what leading means, isn’t it?

    No, this is not generally correct and can be very dangerous.

    Good leaders leverage other people’s expertise, they listen and they build understanding and consensus (where possible). Don’t get me wrong, you CAN be successful as the dictator, but more people will succeed more often by listening and leverage the knowledge of a group.

    But ultimately, you’re the decision maker, so once the input is in, make the decision and act.

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