As the hierarchical model of leadership has fallen from favor, there has been a trend towards the “buddy model” where leaders are increasingly inclusive in their decision-making and more openly consultative.
This has been incredibly useful, as industries have moved from a more linear, process-driven mode of operation to more creative and adaptable business applications.
However, along the way, there has also been a tendency for leaders to become lost in cycles of approval seeking, reputational risk mitigation and procrastination born out of a desire for full and complete data.
This can be a mistake.
In fact, all great leaders, be they in business or lifted from the pages of history, have had a capacity to direct action, to make clear and direct decisions without all the information at hand, and often in the face of popular opinion. In fact, many of today’s most venerated leaders were once considered to be engaged in acts of civil disobedience. Albert Einstein reminds us that, “What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.”
What this means is that leaders will not always have the luxury of being able to follow.
In truth, leaders will scarcely have all the information they would like in order to make a considered decision. It is a leaders role to drive certainty, not to depend on it.
This all makes a capacity to make decisions and then make them stick one of the most critical in leadership. While input is essential and openness important, these are both subordinate to ownership and responsibility.
How leaders drive ownership:
- Drive radical clarity – Doubt is perhaps the thing that slows organizational performance more than any other factor. The second-guessing by middle management, the constant questioning and deferring by front line staff costs business immeasurably. Winston Churchill didn’t say, “We shall fight them on the beaches… but look, if they make it past the sand, there is very little we can do…” He stated, “We shall never surrender. Never. Never. Never. Never.” Clarity drives action.
- Be consultative, but own the decision – Acknowledging your staff is critically important, in fact the question “What do you think?” is one of the most motivating things you can do for your staff. It not only acknowledges their presence, it also indicates that you consider what they say to have value. However, when the decision is at hand, be clear that you are the one taking responsibility and own it.
- Communicate with certainty, not arrogance – In other words, leave no doubt about the path the organization is to take while establishing the importance of the contribution of the people around you in making this path viable. It is human nature to gravitate to certainty, and though a leader may not always feel it, it is important that they learn to evoke it.