blogging about DIRECT LEADERSHIP

Leaders and decision making

with 2 comments

This morning I became aware of a discussion taking place on Twitter – about leadership and decision-making. An inspiring and enthusiastic discussion, lead by Lisa Petrelli from C-Level Strategies in Chicago. I’m definitely going to keep an eye on this woman from now on. However, that’s not the point of this blog post.

The point I want to make today is that I am passionate about shouting out the message, that it is time to change the narrative about leaders and decisions.


Instead, we must turn the spotlight to focus on how employees make them and to whether their leaders are instrumental in ensuring high quality decisions and sound decision-making processes.

Focusing on the various ways of exercising authority (authoritarian, consultative, involving, consensus…) was essential in the afternoon of the industrial society.

Admittedly, in some industries and areas of the world, this societal model still prevails.

However, most leaders today carry out their duties in a context, which is on the increase all over the world:

– the staff are as well-educated as (or better educated than) their bosses

– things move so fast that the majority of everyday decision-making must be handled by the employees at their discretion

By themselves, most of the day-to-day decisions are not crucial to a team’s or company’s performance. However a few of them could be. And certainly added up they are.

Ask any leader: “Did you ever have to spend days or weeks on patching up the relationship with a major business partner to you (could also be another department), because a staff member in his/her endeavours to do the right thing happened to make a poor choice?”

Or ask him/her: “Can you imagine if none of your staff made a single discretionary decision for just one day?  Or even during the two hours you were caught up in a management meeting?”

In both cases, notice his or her eyes start rolling by the memory or by the sheer thought of what kind of work it would be if every single question was waiting on his/her desk.

Let me close by repeating:

We need to stop focusing on how leaders make decisions and get leaders to focus on how they may be instrumental to their staff to their decision-making!


2 Responses

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  1. We need leaders to do at least one more decision. They must decide to agree with your statement, Karin 🙂

    I am afraid that it is much too early to turn the spolight away from leader decisions. Yes they should concentrate on creating an optimal frame work for their employees AND this takes a lot of sound leader decisions to get there.



    March 30, 2011 at 14:34

    • Thank you for your reflections Jens and for the opportunity they give me to clarify.
      When reading your comment, I figure that you must be thinking about a different category of decision-making.

      I agree that leaders need to decide on being leaders, and that this may in fact involve more than one decision, as you say.

      Similarly there are plenty of decisions involved for the man or woman who is dedicated to their everyday leadership. Every time a leader’s radar notices an unusual interaction among his/her staff or with outsiders to the team opportunity, there is a choice (or a decision if you will) to be made: How do I choose to interpret what I have noticed? How do I choose to deal with what I have noticed? Will I introduce some remedial intervention? Will I seek to develop some competency or attitudinal change? Will I give feedback and ask for a course-correction?

      This is, however, not my focus with the blog post.
      What I suggest is, that when it comes to decision-making as a more general topic, the discussion has a tendency to drift in the direction the leader’s willingness to share more or less his/her authority with staff. Whereas the leader’s responsibility of being instrumental to his/her staff in relation to the decisions THEY make during the course of their workdays is largely ignored.

      So what I am suggesting is a bit like shifting the weight from the one leg we have been standing on exclusively to the other in the hope that eventually leaders will use both.


      Karin Zastrow

      March 30, 2011 at 18:25

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