For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past and the present are certain to miss the future.
A risk is a chance you take; if it fails you can recover. A gamble is a chance taken; if it fails, recovery is impossible.
Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.
There is no-one who cannot vastly improve their leadership through study.
I would define leadership as the projection of personality. It is that combination of persuasion, compulsion and example that makes other people do what you want them to do.
Leadership is the art of achieving more than the science of management says is possible.
We should be doing something even better than you could do for yourself. Otherwise, why hire an advisor?
Think to the Finish
The Five Ninths Panel
Contributors to our articles are:
David, a retired Royal Marines Major General, with extensive practical experience of leading national and multi-national teams and organisations - military and civilian - on politically sensitive and high profile operations and assignments worldwide.
Richard has advised on policy at the highest level of government and currently advises a major, multi-national, innovative business on a wide range of issues
Edward was a senior partner in a major global advisory practice and his experience delivers convincing, knowledgeable and relevant opinion
It is reasonable to assert that making decisions is the primary responsibility of any leader and is at the very heart of business success - organisations that make relentlessly good decisions succeed.
Although the leader can, and indeed should, be advised and provided with information by the staff and the team, the authority and responsibility for decision making remains with the leader.
So, timely decision making lies at the very heart of the exercise of leadership and is an essential skill that should be supported by the ability to assess and visualise situations, solve problems, plan solutions and, importantly, communicate them to the team.
The process should be based on logical analysis, usually a collective endeavour, and the application of the leader's professional judgment.
Decision Making Process
So, how is this done in practice? The ability to decide on a course of action, to come up with a plan and then to put it into operation, is underpinned by the ability to access timely and accurate information through a considered process that ensures that all factors are properly considered.
It should be a continuous cycle, bound together by effective communication, but, importantly, is not an end in itself. The end sought is successful activity, which depends on the ability to take better - not necessarily faster - decisions and actions than those of competitors.
Framing the Problem and Testing the Plan
The first step in this process is to assess the situation and to achieve a common understanding of it by 'framing the problem' in broad terms. The leader can then begin to work out his plan. This gradually details the actions required, in time and space, to get from the current situation to the intended situation.
As the plan unfolds, it should be tested to refine the decisions made and to identify potential flaws that could flourish because of the tendency of organisations to 'follow the herd' and the friction of time and resource pressure.
Consider These Characteristics
- The process of making decisions requires timely, accurate and relevant information, together with the means to communicate that information to subordinates.
- The ability to know if a decision is required and, if it is, when it must be taken is critical. Waiting for the latest available information is unlikely to deliver timely and effective decisions.
- Decentralisation engenders a greater sense of involvement, ownership and commitment. Decision-making levels should be set as low as possible, with resources provided and caveats made clear - what is to be done rather than how it is to be done.
- Quality and timeliness of decisions are critical to operational effectiveness. Sound decisions made quickly are often more effective than longer or delayed decisions that may be subjectively better.
- Leaders should make decisions personally and express their decisions clearly and succinctly. Major decisions should not be delegated.
- Leaders make better and quicker decisions with the benefit of training. This relates to frequency, breadth, feedback and reflection. Intuition stems from frequent opportunities to make decisions in training and on relevant feedback to improve their quality. Training is where mistakes should be made - train hard, fight easy.
- It is the outcome of the decision-making process that is all-important. Focus should be on quality and timing of the decision and the understanding of that decision by subordinates. Commonly understood decision-making methodologies enable teams to work together effectively. That said, the methodologies should not become the ends in themselves.