Boiled down to it’s essence, leadership is about looking at the lay of the land and making decisions. From which emails to answer to which investments to make, via hirings and firings and meeting agendas.
As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as the right decision, just a good one — most of which are equal parts analysis, advice, time pressure and honesty, all shaken together with a jigger of gut.
It’s that jigger of gut I’m interested in here.
How do you hone it and how can you help others do the same?
Decision making is a muscle. There’s no tissue involved but to get movement you have to contract it all the same. And more contractions make for stronger muscles.
But good decisions don’t come from muscle-bound hubris, they come from careful practice in the school room of experience where you learn lessons along the way. Lessons like: nothing is really black-and-white, everything is a compromise, and any decision is better than indecision.
It’s an old, old story. The fresh young thing asks the wise and successful owl, “How did you achieve so much?”
“And how do you make good decisions?”
“And how do you get experience?”
Being a dictator may be the fastest way to move things along and it’s certainly the easiest way to slow things down, but that kind of control comes at a cost. Every decision you take is a learning opportunity lost to somebody else.
Of course, some decisions are yours and yours alone. But they’re rare.
More often than you think, somebody else is better placed and better served to make the call. You can give guidance if you like, walk them through options and tease out their thinking, but if you want your people to grow you have put them in play and let them learn.
They’ll make mistakes and choose paths that you wouldn’t. They’ll gain experience too.
A jigger of gut isn’t made of instinct. It comes from exercise, practice and time on the field. Whenever you can, step out of the game and ask somebody else to make the call. You’ll probably get a good decision, and you’ll certainly get a stronger team.
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