…was also the invention of the shipwreck!
Effective Leadership involves among other things a sound decision making process. As it is a process it involves looking at not only the decisions immediate impact but the longer-term effects as well. As this quote from French Philosopher, Urbanist and Cultural Theorist Paul Virilio suggests, there is casualty in every leadership decision. For context, the decisions discussed here are primarily focused on the ones with the broadest impact to the organization and the strategy. Understanding the impact the decisions have in a broader sense is the challenge every leader faces multiple times a day!
- There are always Pros and Cons – The first thing to understand is that every decision has pros and cons. Seems obvious, yet I routinely see leaders making decisions only based on the upside of their decision and falling victim to their own confirmation biases. A common occurrence is a case study assignment I give to MBA students. Part of the assignment involves identifying the pros and cons of decisions within the case study. The number one reason these future leaders lose points is only listing the pros of the decision when it clearly states to list both the pros and cons in the syllabus. Time and again, what they perceive to be the right approach falls short by not looking at the negative, as well as the positive, consequences of key leadership decisions!
- Managing Risk – Suffice it to say, most decisions at this level have a level of risk based on the pros and cons of that decision. Once again, we are dealing with the leader’s attitude toward risk and how the final decision is made. I suspect that if those who did invent the ship had known about shipwrecks, they would not have changed their decision. 21st Century leaders have a similar challenge in that even if they have full view of all the significant pros and cons, they would still make decisions where the cons will show, but only with minimal impact relative to the advantages (pros) of the decisions.
- Impact of Pace – Once leaders have the pros and cons identified and have come to terms with their risk tolerance, they fact the impact of pace. Simply stated, the speed of business does not allow unbounded time to confer, deliberate and reflect on key decisions. As leaders will never have enough time to do all they want to do (hence the need for priorities), they will rarely have enough time to make the perfect decision. Although a common complaint among leaders is not having enough time, my response to them is to know their business well enough to be able to quickly put key decisions into context. Getting feedback from the leader’s team is crucial to this continuous business knowledge process such that only a small amount of additional information is needed at the time to make the best decision for the organization!
Effective Leadership decision-making is both an art and a science. It involves looking at both short term and long term impacts to the organization and involves making tough decisions even with an occasional shipwreck as part of the impact!
Is your next decision a ship, a shipwreck or a little bit of both and how do you know?