By Dr. Frank Trovato
In the business world, money managers are learning the hard way that their bread is buttered by those who have vision, steadiness, talent, and guts - in short, with what used to be called "the right stuff". That means character, wedded to a precise talent, a talent for figuring out the right thing to do and for doing it the right way and at the right time (Novak 1997, 22).
The focus of this article is to get leaders to begin a thoughtful and reflective exercise on one aspect of leadership: the decision-making process. Today’s leaders and managers must have a sense of vision for what the future may hold and the strength of bias toward action that can facilitate persuasion in others within a healthy and happy work environment (Novak, 1997, p. 22).
Leadership Development Involves Decision-Making
An important component of decision-making is self-confidence. If you have the mental attributes and the ability to envision the world around you, then you will likely be the type of leader who can analyze a situation and make the right decision when called upon (Novak, 1997). This ability to be aware of what is around you leads to the second component of decision making which is the ability to be analytical. The great value of critical thought can be traced all the way back to the philosopher Socrates (b.399 B.C.) of Athens, who advocated that critical thought and self-reflection are major components of what it is to be human. So, what kind of decision maker are you?
Decision Making Models
Modern day management theory suggests there are 4 types of decision making styles that are recognizable in leaders. There is the Directive style, with a focus on the task at hand and a leader who voices their decisions. In this directive style there is high certainty in the decision made by the leader who knows what they want. The Analytical style, the leader often times can be doubtful, can overthink a situation and does not rush into making a decision. For this leader the more information once has collected the better to avoid making a bad decision.
In the Conceptual style, the leader is a people person, thrives on conversation, develops multiple alternatives, seeks out future opportunities and is willing to take risks. One criticism could be this leader does not always think realistically and can struggle making decisions.
The last is called Behavioural style. The leader in this style is also a people person, encourages conversations and is open to other ideas. The leader will usually stay away from arguments and avoids making hard decisions.
Finally, leaders should be aware of potential “red flags” or conditions that can lead to errors in judgment. The first condition is called “misleading experiences” when the leader over relies on past experiences that seems useful, but is potentially risky as it can contribute to flawed decisions. The second red flag is “prejudgments”. Leaders can sometime make prejudgments about their dealings that sometimes turn out to be wrong as they will fixate on a plan of action that has worked in the past but is not suitable for the current situations they face (i.e. for example, this hostage situation is like the ones I have dealt with before). The third red flag is “self-interest”. Personal interests that conflict with responsibilities are sometimes operating at a subconscious level and difficult for the leader to realize. The last red flag is “attachments”. A strong emotional feeling toward a group, place or possession can be inappropriate given a decision (i.e. staff cuts in a department).
In closing, decision making is an essential leadership skill. Successful leaders make well informed, timely decisions that leads to well-deserved success. If, however, you make poor decisions, your time as a leader will be short one!
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