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Sunday
Dec112011

The Defining Attribute Of An Effective Leader

I collect leadership definitions and here is one of my favorites.

A leader is a person who makes decisions, some of which are right.

I don’t know who said it or where I got it from, but it rings true with me.  I have never met a leader who bats 1000.  Good decision-making is an ongoing experience and process. With time we learn how to make better decisions.

The greater your leadership responsibility, the tougher the decisions you will have to make.  Additionally, the higher you are in an organization the more that is riding on every decision.  Usually a leader is promoted due to his/her decision-making ability.

The willingness to make the tough decisions is what separates good leaders from bad leaders. 

Recently I had a conversation with a successful businessman who is now being paid large amounts of money to consult those who own and run large companies. I asked him what some of the issues were he was encountering as he did his consulting. 

At the top of his list were being able to clearly articulate vision and the ability to make decisions.  He told me his clients are often afraid to make some of the tough decisions. I asked him if his counsel was to tell his clients to move slower or faster.  His response was immediate: “Faster.”

Readiness to take calculated risks in decision-making is probably the one quality that best characterizes the effective leader. Indecision at the top can filter down and negatively impact an entire organization.

As I have reflected on the most difficult decisions I have made, they have been personnel decisions. These have caused me the most stress, fear and anxiety…both in on-boarding as well as off-boarding people (maybe off-boarding is a new word). 

I still get emotional thinking back 40 years when I let a team member go due to under-performance--my first difficult leadership decision. It was the right decision for him and for the team, but I sweat bullets in making it and got a fair amount of criticism.

Here are a few thoughts to ponder as it relates to your decision-making:

  • Don’t make hurried decisions
  • Don’t procrastinate when it is as clear as it will ever be as to what needs to be done. Don’t let your fears rule the day
  • Get input from team members before pulling the trigger 
  • Don’t wait until you have all the information you think you need
  • Don’t be afraid of making a wrong decision
  • Once the decision is made, move on

What is the most difficult decision you have had to make as a leader?

Think about that for a moment. 

Did you move too slowly? 

Did you move too quickly?

Did you have all the information you thought you needed?

What were you most afraid of?

Would you make the same decision, if you could do it over again?

What did you learn from the experience?

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