In my personal experience I have come across many managers and supervisors, including CEO’s, who literally developed cold feet and would freeze when it came to decision-making. They would move on the response spectrum of No; may be; yes; no; can be; no; yes …etc. Decision making, which is the most essential aspect of management and a trait that should never escape or be absent in a leader, is of paramount necessity. Lack of resolution in times of distress exacerbates the challenge arising out of the difficult situation. A timely reaction can either dilute the situation or even fashion its outcome to own advantage.
President Theodore Roosevelt had made the following observation, “In any moment of decision, the thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing”. Procrastination is no replacement for taking decisions; no problem solves by itself. Action is desirable the most, regardless of results. Failure is parented by ill-qualities of indecision, procrastination, delays and brushing under the carpet. The objective of any endeavor is mostly success; not indecision; because in the pursuit of an objective, there is no alternative to success.
Cowing down or buckling to circumstances, without having taken any decision is essentially appeasement, and that is one situation that only prolongs the life and handling of the issue(s) or it may also act as a catalyst to beget a problem of even still greater magnitude. Appeasement (inaction) should not even be a tactical weapon in the armory of a leader/manager.
Decision making without doubt is difficult; it only worsens when the individual has inherent timidity or has acquired vulnerabilities due to lack of courage - the environment and operating conditions many a times render the fearless to being scared little lamb. This type of manager believes that they live amongst corporate wolves, who will devour, should the decision, if they ever take, backfires. The responsibility that goes with the decision making is feared most by managers.
The conversion of thought into action is an act of decision-making. What constitutes decision making? Does decision making require preparation? Not, in business alone, but also in life in general “decisions” have to be taken on a wide variety of issues. The decision-making exercise has to be for the benefit of the entity or the individual, depending on what the decision relates to. In order to be able to decide efficiently and with accuracy, it is imperative to evaluate what objective is at hand; is the available information sufficient or does it require further enquiry; are there available alternative solutions; and if they are, which option will match the demand of the situation? It implies that the problem has to be placed on the operating table for full dissection, to work and arrive at the most suitable alternative to adopt, for ensuring a successful outcome “It is the characteristic excellence of a strong man that he can bring momentous issues to the fore and make a decision about them. The weak are always forced to decide between alternatives they have not chosen themselves” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer). To determine alternatives, great reliance must be placed on analyzing, imagining and thinking, rather than mere trust on past experience of one's own or others. Each emerging situation requires a new dimension of thought. With these steps taken, a good manager then combs his/her own experience to arrive at the most suitable decision.
Planning without the courage to act or implement is a complete waste of time - the best plans die and get buried within the folds of a file, for the lack of initiative to act upon them, Courage therefore is an ingredient that a leader must be possessed of. Fears are mostly residing in the realm of imagination. Generally they do not exist, except in the mind of the reluctant manager/leader. Lack of self-assurance is usually the case for loss or absence of confidence and courage to take decisions. Managers need to train their minds, though acquisition of adequate knowledge and experience, that will invoke in them a quality of wisdom, that will enrich and allow for fearless decision making.
Fearlessness in the context of management at the corporate or even the state level is not to be confused with adventurism. The guiding principles of evaluation of consequence cannot be underscored in the determination of ensuring bold and courageous decision making. Loitering into a Lion's den with unrealistic assumption, that the animal is herbivorous and shall therefore welcome without making a delicious meal of the manager is an act of absolute stupidity - this is adventurism.
Recklessness or potentially hazardous attitude is not a trait that must be put on display, as an indicator of being a leader - both Hitler and Napoleon were victims of their own making - decisions made by the uncontrollable sense of false pride and adventure; both took the decision to attack Russia in its bitterest winter months. The two met their waterloo - almost 125 years apart though! That puts into right perspective the commonly held view, man doesn't learn from history and that history is condemned to be repeated. Business managers must base their decisions on matters of importance through proper and effective evaluation of the circumstances, alongside any historical incidents of similar nature. Learn from history, not repeat it.
Decision making cannot be without the associated assumption of responsibility of its outcome. Managers, who claim ownership of only the successful decisions, undo themselves over a period of time. Decision and its responsibility cannot be separated. A continuous denial of responsibility of the result of a decision made doesn't last very long - managers of this ilk get, exposed much too soon, then they expect or imagine. Great are leaders who put on their tables, plaques reading, “the buck stops here”. The magnificence of courage and boldness in the act of decision-making must be visible.
Often fast decision making is considered good decision making - that's untrue. Infact, it is laden with grave risks. The skill of decision making and taking decisions must go through the mill of analyzing, evaluating and thinking about the applicability of alternative solutions, to be adjudged as good decision making. A quick decision is not equivalent to a timely decision.
Critics (managers), who emerge on the scene after the results of a decision are known, are those who are wise only on hindsight; never before the occurrence of the event.
Decision making ability is most precious and prized quality present in any leader/manager. Leaders dare themselves to decide. For only the fools, it is bravery to be at a distance from the problem; turning away from critical decision making is managerial cowardice; and certainly is no act of either courage or bravery.
George Bernard Shaw wrote, “It is courage, courage, courage that raises the blood of life to crimson splendor”. Decision - making gives splendor to the leadership status/position.
The writer is a freelance columnist