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Face The Challenge - Sample Section, Chapter 20

Chapter Twenty - Decision Making

"Decision Making" inspects the common and more subtle pitfalls of the business leadership decision making managerial process that cause many Leaders to make imprudent business decisions, what steps can be taken to overcome these obstacles in the business leadership decision making process, and how Leaders can avoid repeating the same mistakes time and time again by improving this managerial process.


20.1 Deciding What to Decide.  "Decision making is the process by which a course of action is consciously chosen from available alternatives for the purpose of achieving a desired result" (Massie, EM p6).  And the sequence of events or behaviors by which Leaders make their decisions speaks volumes as to their emotional maturity, depth of intellect, self-confidence, range of experience, and motivational skills.  As Leaders are primarily selected for their superior judgmental capacity to make more prudent decisions than those which their followers are deemed capable of; and Leaders who do not rise to this expectation have failed in their fundamental purpose and will quickly lose the confidence of both their Subordinates and superiors.  However, the range of decisions that Leaders decide to make for themselves can significantly impact their overall effectiveness and that of their supervisory unit.  For if Subordinates must look to their Leader to make decisions that are more appropriately made at their level, the Leader's agenda will be inordinately filled with routine administrative matters to the possible exclusion of more important issues.  Thus as a general rule, Leaders should avoid making recurring operational decisions that they can successfully train their Subordinates to make and should progressively reduce the number of decisions that they have to make personally by further empowering their Subordinates to act on their own initiative.  Ideally, decisions that are exclusively reserved for Leaders at any echelon should: (i) require their superior expertise or judgment, (ii) benefit from their broader perspective, (iii) be beyond the capability of their average Subordinate to make, or  (iv) exceed the authority level of their Subordinates.  Consequently, if Leaders do not add significant value to the decision making process, it is highly probable that such decisions can be passed on to their Subordinates or that they are not up to the supervisory task at hand and should be replaced.  Again, prudent decision making requires that Leaders carefully balance exercising their leadership authority; for "not to decide questions that are not pertinent at the time is uncommon good sense, though to raise them may be uncommon perspicacity.  Not to decide questions prematurely is to refuse commitment of attitude or the development of prejudice.  Not to make decisions that cannot be made effective is to refrain from destroying authority.  [and] Not to make decisions that others should make is to preserve morale, to develop competence, to fix responsibility, and to preserve [leadership] authority" (Barnard, FE p94) at each supervisory echelon.

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Copyright 2006 by H. Garrett Hayward from Face the Challenge: The Leader's Success Handbook