|Analysis, Problem Solving and Decision Making|
The first job of leaders is to make decisions. Though making
decisions is always a stressful task, to fail to make decisions is to
abdicate leadership. Leaders face making decisions in a
pressure-packed environment of inadequate input, conflicting
recommendations, scarce resources, and budget constraints that limit
options. The very personality characteristics that helped them to
become leaders may work against them once they have achieved power.
There is no simple formula for decision-making, but many leaders act as
if there is, relying on one tried and true method for arriving at
conclusions even when that method may not yield an optimal solution.
How can new leaders be thorough and methodical in analysis and
problem-solving without falling into analysis paralysis or simple
habit? The secret is to become knowledgeable about the different
strategies leaders use to make effective decisions and to flexibly
apply these strategies in situationally appropriate ways.
Experts on leadership recognize four major decision-making approaches,
all of which may lead to successful decision making in particular
- The Authoritative decision-making style occurs when leaders
simply make a decision based on their best understanding of a given
situation and then announce it to their subordinates. The authoritative
style is most appropriate to situations in which leaders are experts
(possessing the appropriate information and experience base necessary
to make the right decision), and to crisis situations where there is
little time for consultation. It is inappropriate when subordinates
have expertise in relevant areas that leaders do not possess, and/or
when there is time to recruit experts for consultation. Many
hard-driving 'Type-A” leaders use this decision making strategy by
default as it best fits with their personality. However, as this style
does not usually maximize decision making effectiveness, such leaders
could profitably work on broadening their decision-making repertoire.
- The Facilitative decision-making style involves a
cooperative effort between leaders and subordinates to arrive at a
shared decision based on input from all parties. In this strategy,
leaders actually share decision making authority (for example, making
decisions based on a majority vote), so it is important that
subordinates included in the decision making process be both
knowledgeable and motivated to help leaders arrive at the best
decision. Facilitative decision making is empowering to subordinates,
but may also weaken the organization's perception of the leader's
ability to lead effectively. It is perhaps best used in situations
where risks of making a bad decision are small and gains to be had by
including subordinates are great (such as choosing what sorts of
benefits programs to fund).
- As the name implies, the Consultative
decision-making strategy involves leaders making the final call on a
decision after having receiving input from knowledgeable and willing
subordinate advisers. When time allows, and knowledgeable subordinates
are available, this is the best decision making strategy to use. When
consultation can increase the likelihood of making a good decision, a
wise leader is a fool not to ask. However, leaders should make it clear
to subordinates that the final decision is theirs, so as to avoid
confusion and disillusionment.
- Delegative decision-making occurs when a leader
delegates decision making authority to a knowledgeable subordinate or
subordinates. The leader throws the ball to others, and stands back to
let them make the shot to the basket. Delegation is part of a balanced
approach to management and decision-making, requiring leaders to
identify and respect the limits of their own expertise. It goes without
saying that subordinates who receives delegated decision-making powers
have knowledge and experience sufficient for them to make informed
decisions. The attractiveness of delegation as a decision-making
strategy grows as a function of organization size and complexity.
Delegation of classes of decisions to subordinates is a necessity for a
leader of a large organization. It is less important for a leader of a
smaller organization, although even leaders of very small organizations
can benefit by farming out classes of decisions to consultants.
The new leader realizes that no single decision making style will work
consistently with the educated staff found in the modern workplace. The
new leader does not get locked into a single style, no matter how
comfortable that style may feel, but rather chooses appropriate styles
as will maximally benefit the organization in each situation.