The Decisive Leader

The Decisive Leader

Decisions, both personal and professional, are a part of life and we will either reap the benefits of those
that are correct or feel the pain of those that are not. Those decisions can range from the routine and
mundane to the critically important and unfortunately in our human nature we are subject to human
error. At times, even good intentions can lead to bad mistakes. As I reflect back on my own
professional experiences, there were certainly those decisions that were correct and ended well, but
despite the best of intentions, there were also decisions that I would love to call back, reprocess, and do
over. I also suspect that I am not alone when it comes to such reflective moments and past decision
making experiences. Indeed, when making decisions mistakes are inevitable but in the words of Albert
Einstein, “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” In my opinion, this is
certainly an interesting observation from a pretty bright fellow that offers valuable perspective for
anyone in a position of leadership.

As a leader you are both empowered and expected to make decisions and you will very likely make your
share of both good and bad. Effective leaders need to know what they don’t know and there are
practical steps that can be taken to reduce vulnerability to the bad decision and, in contrast, increase
the likelihood of a well-informed and correct decision.

First and foremost make sure that you have access to sufficient and accurate information from all
sources relevant to the decision, both internal and external. Then take steps to ensure that the
information gathered is evaluated and analyzed appropriately. Generally speaking, the broader the
scope, the more refined the process, and the more precise the feedback the greater the chances of
making an appropriate decision.

Also, keep in mind that good decisions are rarely made in isolation and it is vitally important to make
sure that you have the right advisory team assembled to facilitate the decision making process. This
team certainly needs to be cohesive but, at the same time, not afraid to express differences of opinion.
Ideally, the team members should be critical thinking problem solvers who will tell you what you need
to hear and not necessarily what you want to hear. Furthermore, it is your responsibility as their leader
to create the environment and establish the parameters for this team to interact and function
effectively.

As decisions are formulated and implemented, keep the team engaged and have a process in place to
monitor and evaluate the outcomes in real-time with established methods and contingencies to make
adjustments if needed. However, it has been said that what is right is often forgotten by what is
convenient, so bear in mind that correct decisions are not always popular decisions. Therefore, if you
have performed your due diligence and sincerely believe that your decision is appropriate be prepared
to take the heat, if necessary, and stay the course. Decisive leadership is absolutely critical to
organizational success and it goes hand-in-hand with the ability to make well-informed decisions
without waffling or wavering under pressure.

As a concluding thought, the decisive leader will always take ownership and assume full responsibility
for their decisions. They will also recognize that the risk of a wrong decision is clearly preferable to the
paralysis of indecision.

About the Author
Dr. Hollinger
Dr. Faron L. Hollinger worked in the field of public education for over three decades, serving as a teacher, school psychologist, various administrative positions, and ultimately as superintendent. He has been the recipient of multiple awards for his professional contributions and accomplishments and has also served as an invited presenter for state, regional, and national conferences. Dr. Hollinger is now President/CEO of The Akribos Group, an educational research and consulting firm, as well as Executive Director for The University of Alabama Capstone Education Society Board of Directors.
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