Leaders: When is Decisiveness a Deficit?

The ability to respond rapidly is critical for leaders. In our busy, hurry-up days, decisiveness is a positive attribute – much of the time. With teams counting on leaders to define next steps, or managers expecting approval of initiatives, there is pressure to move quickly. In most aspects of leadership however, decisiveness is complex.

Of course, there are times that demand rapid response and nothing less – emergencies effecting our clients, our staff, our customers, or sudden storms within our day to day, etc.

These and other scenarios require decisiveness. Yet often what occurs is the “habit” of rushing to conclusions which carries over from the culture of pressure to produce, ongoing and constant demand, and the “more is better” mentality that marches through our field – without deeper investigation.

Patience is power. Patience is not an absence of action; rather it is “timing” it waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way. -Fulton J. Sheen

Great decision making by premature “knowing” is problematic. The steps to minimize the possibility of making poor decisions begins with:

  1. a willingness to ask questions – in search of differing perspectives.
  2. taking the time to see what is unfolding despite the frustration often inherent in waiting.

Six year old Sally had two apples. Her mom asked if she might have one. Immediately, Sally bit into first one apple, then the other.

Her mother was dismayed! Her face fell. (What conclusion did she make about her child?)

Sally, seeing this, said, “ I had to taste each apple to see which was sweeter so I could give you the best one.”

What does this cautionary tale teach us? Be slow to judge. Be patient in understanding what is unfolding. Ask questions – lots of them if necessary. Then decide.

While being able to think quickly “on one’s feet” is important, asking questions to gain a clear understanding so that decisions are principled and aligned with your mission is more so!



-Who Do We Choose To Be?: Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity Margaret Wheatley

-First Things First- Stephen R Covey

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