In my three plus decades in business, I’ve learned five key things that have served me well as I have had the opportunity to lead different organizations across several different industries. These five concepts work in every situation, at every level and in every organization of which I have ever been a part:
- Make the fewest decisions possible.
- Know the context.
- Take the time necessary to make thoughtful decisions.
- Don’t worry about making the perfect decision, just make sure that even if it is sub-optimal, it still propels your organization in the direction you want.
- Once made, you should test your decisions as quickly as possible – keep the good ones, don’t be afraid to toss the bad ones and move on.
The higher you climb in any organization puts more distance between you and the actual hands-on tasks. More of what you have to do is through influence and inspiration of others rather that you actually doing the work yourself. The first concept doesn’t mean that you should avoid decisions, it means that you must surround yourself with a team of people who can make decisions. You can’t do it all, you have to have people aligned with you who can take take the load. Divide and conquer.
Context matters. Opinions are not facts. Facts are facts, that is always true, but the same fact in a different context will lead you in a different direction. Context is like the punctuation of ideas. Just as the phrases “Let’s eat Grandma” and “Let’s eat, Grandma” are made up of the same exact words, that little squiggle, the comma, makes all the difference in the meaning of those words. Use critical reading, listening and observational skills. Understand the context to grasp the meaning. So much conflict is due to a misunderstanding (or misrepresentation) of context.
Haste makes waste. While it may be satisfying to make quick decisions based on your gut, taking time to think things through is guaranteed to increase the quality of the outcome. If you have 5 days to make a decision, don’t make it today, make it on day four. Do not let a desire to beat the clock lower your opportunity to make a quality decision. Being thorough is not procrastination. Stick YOUR timetable, not someone else’s ticking clock. Slow down. Stop and think – then act.
Nobody makes the right decision every time – but great leaders do have one thing in common – even when they do make a bad decision, progress toward a given goal keeps moving. It may be a little slower but a great leader rarely makes a mistake that causes a 180 degree turn or stops progress dead in its tracks. If you adhere to the first three concepts, you can be sure that most of your decisions will be right and when the minority aren’t the best, rarely will they be truly detrimental to your efforts. Maintaining momentum is important. In any situation, stasis is almost always a harbinger of death.
Testing your decisions is the only way to determine if you are on the right path. Once you have made a decision, implement it quickly. Feedback is important. The faster it comes, the faster you know. Dead ends are not necessarily a bad thing because at least they eliminate one variable. Do not be afraid to discard the bad – bad steals energy from the good, they siphon off momentum…and as stated, momentum is critical.
I’ll be looking for these qualities in the candidate I will support for president.
I want a leader who inspires other leaders to work for them. No president can make all the decisions, they have to have the innate ability to field a team of leaders. I want a president who gets context and is a thoughtful decision maker, one that leads their party in a legislative agenda that, while it may not be perfect, will propel this country forward…and if it doesn’t I want a leader willing to admit that the expected goals aren’t being achieved, toss that action and move to test another one.
America does not need another community organizing politician, we deserve a leader who understands the five concepts are factual in any context.