Leadership And Decision Making

It is inevitable that leaders, no matter what type, will be faced with  many different decisions.  Some decisions will be minor and may not affect anyone but themselves.  Other decisions can be quite large and have the capacity to affect everyone and anyone under their leadership.  Decision making is part of a leader’s daily expectations.  This makes decision making important for those in a leadership role.  Leaders have a responsibility to make good decisions for everyone involved, and therefore, should have some kind of framework for which to make those decisions.

There are four basic decision-making styles that effective leaders use.  These styles can vary by department or organization, the leader’s own philosophy and style, as well as other outside influences, such as money or subordinates.

1. Command

Leaders who tend to make decisions without consulting anyone on their team are said to be command leaders.  However negative it may sound, it can be a good style of decision making, especially for quick moving situations that need guidance immediately.  Leaders use this style most effectively and strategically when they apply it to monetary decisions and crisis decisions.  In these types of situations, there may be no time to consult with others, and doing so could lead to bigger problems and an outcome determined by a delayed decision.

2. Collaborative

Collaborative decision making requires and uses the opinions and insight of others on the team.  Leaders who routinely ask those under them for their feedback and viewpoints are seeking to make a collaborative decision.  This doesn’t give those under the leader the right to make the decision, however, it can give the leader the information need to make the best decision fit for the situation, especially if it affects a lot of people.  Collaborative decision making also falls under evidence based decision making.  If a leader is using collaborative decision making, it is actually best to not surround him or herself with people who always agree with them.  People should feel open and willing to argue either side of the coin.  Even if the leader ends up not taking their advice, it will help bring the decision and situation more clarity.

3. Consensus

Decision making done with a vote is called consensus decision making.  It is similar to that of a democratic vote.  Leaders can gather their teams, explain the decision at hand, and then everyone gets a vote.   If a leader needs to make a decision that will not affect the bottom line, but does, however, affect a vast majority of those under him or her, then a consensus is a good way to go.  When using a consensus, leaders need to remember that they cannot please everyone.  Decisions made by consensus tend to help mold the culture of a company or organization and can help give everyone a voice.  Being heard is important to most people on a team or in a group, and satisfaction will go up when they feel like they are heard.

4. Convenience

Some leaders choose to delegate their decision making tasks.  This can be out of convenience and can have several benefits, including the empowerment of team members and evaluating the decision-making skills of other team members.  It is important for leaders to remember that those new to making decisions may have some fresh an innovative ideas or ways of looking at a problem and its solutions.

Applying Ethics to Decision Making

Ethics is an integral part to decision making for every type of leader.  In order to understand ethics in decision making, the values of the leader and the organization must be taken into careful consideration.  Leaders who are effective have an understanding and an awareness of their own morals, values, and system of ethics.  Integrity, transparency, and solid character are cornerstones of good leadership.  Leaders should know that transparent and consistent ethically based decisions will help build the team and the business.  Leaders who apply ethics to their methods of decision making will consider the following:

  • Keeping promises
  • Not being deceitful
  • Treating others as they wish to be treated
  • Not blaming others
  • Making informed decisions without favoritism
  • Working to make the work or organizational environment better
  • Operating within the law
  • Minimizing hardships and helping others when possible

By taking these factors into account and exercising them, leaders can create an ethical environment, causing those underneath their leadership to also work and live ethically.  There may be times, however, that two values of equal importance clash in the decision making process and cause an ethical dilemma.  In this situation, the leader will need to carefully balance both values in order to make an ethical decision.  This can be easier said than done in most situations, though going back to the core values and goals of the company and of the leader can help give clarity in these situations.

Decision making can be difficult, especially for those in positions of leadership.  Making the wrong decision can impact the bottom line of the business or organization, it can turn people against a leader, and it can cause many other people to be affected.  Leaders should consider what decision framework they use, as well as the ethical standards and principles of the business, as well as their own when making a decision.  However, leaders should not be afraid to make a decision, as it is a key component to being a leader.

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Founded in 1948, Brandeis University is an internationally recognized research institution with the intimacy and personal attention of a small liberal arts college. Brandeis University is pleased to offer its M.S. in Project and Program Management (MSPPM) in a convenient online format for working professionals interested in project management.

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