One of the most important things that a Leader does is to make decisions. As much as we try to research and analyze the paths we travel, a good leader typically makes many decisions based on “what feels right” rather than some recipe of right and wrong choices, decisions or alternatives. A high percentage of the “judgment calls” that people considered to be great leaders make turn out to be successful decisions while poor leaders tend to make poor decisions (often shifting the blame for failure to those that work for them). How do good leaders “win more often than they lose” and how can their judgment be transferred to others? THIS is the essence of leadership – not only knowing what to do and when to do it but also how to transfer actions (and accountability) to others - when to hold on AS WELL AS when to let go and get out of the way!
Good judgment is experience-based. Leaders typically have a variety of experiences to draw upon when making decisions. Rarely will a great leader step into a position of authority without having first experienced many different roles, responsibilities, successes and failures. Visualizing how one situation applies to another – dealing with the practical application of situations and how they interact rather than only the theoretical facts that can be seen by anyone – is a transition many find difficult. Great leaders not only apply their knowledge, they continually expose others within their organization to new and different situations (and appropriate levels of responsibility) – often allowing them to grow by failing (as long as it does not negatively and irreparably impact “innocents” or the organization) – so that they, too, can develop a variety of experiences from which future decisions will be based.
Good judgment is more often the result of many small decisions coming together to pave the road upon which major decisions must travel rather than the infamous “ah-ha” moment that trainers would lead you to expect. Great inventions were rarely planned – often they are the culmination of many lesser ideas, failures, false-starts and misdirected accomplishments. While great decisions are almost never made without careful analysis, thorough investigation, utilization of “cause/effect” processes (and a conscious, willful implementation of an action plan to move forward cautiously), they are often the result of our reacting to what has occurred because of the experience we have gained rather than us brilliantly anticipating a solution before experimenting our way through multiple levels of success. While working to harness electricity, Edison once stated that he had never failed but rather discovered a thousand solutions that did not work on his way to discovering the one that would. Leaders do not have all the answers (nor should they pretend to know all the right questions) but when moving forward it should be with confidence (having alternatives and options in mind) so that others will follow with faith rather than hold back due to warranted trepidation.
Decision-making is a process, not an event. As situations change, so should one’s direction. Good leaders make decisions then move on to other challenges. Great leaders make decisions and monitor how they play out while moving on to other opportunities. Great leaders NEVER lose sight of their objective nor abandon the process (EVEN IF others feel that a situation has been resolved) as they recognize that today’s destination is but a launching point for tomorrow’s opportunities. They are willing to change their mind as factors and conditions change – recognizing that such mid-decision shifts are (when properly explained and communicated) an indication of strength, intelligence and good judgment rather than a show of weakness, indecision or lack of knowledge. While good decision-making begins with the realization that a need for change exists (NO change is usually good if made ONLY for the sake of change rather than to accomplish something different) it requires the application of good judgment to initiate positive action, it cannot produce results until a problem has been identified and a reasonable solution considered, tested, implemented, monitored, measured, validated and allowed to produce results prior to it being changed.
Great leaders make decisions by combining their practical experience with a well-developed knowledge of the situation, organization, problem, issue (OR people involved) while considering the context within which a decision must be made (urgency, importance, etc.). He or she understands that all three factors influence any decision made – people, environment and urgency. A great leader will engage the people needed to implement a decision in the decision-making process, allowing them to understand not only the “what” of actions but also the “why” as they add to their experience along the way. Sharing thought processes to develop both “wins” and “losses” on the road to success will help others make better judgment calls in the future. Great leaders think, consider, decide then intentionally act (while providing those around them with an opportunity to grow by allowing them to expand their own experiences) so that the organization, relationship or situation will continue to thrive and grow as it benefits from the application of good judgment in the future. While many decisions must be made quickly, no decision should be made without thought, the development of alternative courses of action and the application of good judgment. Even if the best decision is to intentionally decide NOT to act (which CAN be a good decision), never consider a lack of intentional action or the failure to implement because of time restraints, disinterest or inexperience a positive as it often is but an accident waiting to happen – a crisis waiting to be fully revealed..
Be a better leader in whatever situation you find yourself by helping others to grow. Engage their minds (hopes and dreams) as fully as you engage your own, allowing them to act (as you monitor results and get out of the way of their progress). Unless (and until) you prepare others to do what you typically are expected to do you will never achieve more than you have accomplished nor realize anything that has not already been experienced by someone else.