Leadership Challenges in Decision-Making

Whether you recognize it or not, you have two different modes of thought when a decision is required: intuition and analysis. A leader’s decision-making success hinges on resolving the balance between these two modes. React when necessary, but learn to shape your reactive thinking with as much analysis as possible.

When executives don’t have the luxury of lengthy analyses to make decisions, they need to make sense of incomplete data quickly — using intuition. Intuition improves as we learn to process and fully understand the situations we face. The more experiences we have, the stronger our intuition becomes. But you cannot improve intuition with experience alone. You must continually challenge yourself to make tough appraisals and learn from the consequences.

In my work as an executive coach, I see many leaders become immobile in times of uncertainty. Conditions are constantly changing, and information may be incomplete. Some data are misinterpreted or misunderstood. Some situations are subject to chance, and unknowns may not be recognized until after a decision is reached.

Uncertainty can grow stronger when a leader experiences a series of unfortunate decision-related results, compounded by not altering their poor approach to making them. Like a bad habit that doesn’t get addressed and grows worse from repetition, the discomfort of uncertainty takes over, and reversing it gets more difficult the longer it is allowed to go unchecked.

But experienced leaders know that even a wisely crafted decision, one made with full analysis and care, can go south. There are no guarantees. Decisions must still be made, and leaders must be held accountable. It comes with the territory.

Decision-making can burden many leaders simply because each choice rules out an alternative. Other courses of action must be abandoned, and their potential outcomes never come to fruition. This can cause hesitation or analysis-paralysis. Leaders are misled into thinking they can hold off making decisions without consequence. But making no decision is in itself a decision, with a separate set of consequences. There’s no escaping it: You always make a decision at every crossroad.

What do you think? What other challenges have you seen, or experienced, with decision-making? You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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