Thoughts on Leadership: Decisions, Decisions

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Michigan at a Mavericks mastermind meeting hosted by Steve Fase, broker/owner and CEO; and Steve Fase II, president of the brokerage Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Michigan Real Estate | Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northern Indiana Real Estate | Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Tomie Raines Realtors. Although all the Mavericks meetings I’ve attended have been terrific, this was one for the books! The organization, the hospitality and the preparation set a new standard for excellence.

Beyond actionable strategies to drive profitability and growth, a topic that dominated much of our Mavericks discussions was of course, leadership. We talked about how to become better, more servile leaders whose decisions are clear, concise and based on careful research and, above all, fact.

One challenge every leader must face is to separate fact from fiction and then, based on what’s left behind — the truth — make a strong decision that will generate the best possible outcome for everyone.

If you’re interested in becoming this type of strong, decision-making leader, here are four generic affirmations you can read every day to get you in the right mindset:

  • My decisions are clear and definitive. I understand that by having a clear and definitive purpose in life, I can make clear and definitive decisions. The decisions I make are the result of carefully parting fiction from fact. Once I have the facts unmistakably arranged, I pursue decisions with a clear mind.
  • My character is strong and as such, I am able to find out all of the relevant facts before making a decision. When I do make a decision, it is clear and concise. As a leader I consistently fulfill my duty to lead. I do not follow.
  • I understand that leaders are characterized by unequivocal courage and assume complete ownership of every decision they make. I also understand leaders have a heightened sense of justice and after deciphering the facts, can uniquely separate right from wrong. I leverage these characteristics of a great leader to become a true role model for all those who follow in my path and are affected by the decisions I make.
  • When others follow, I lead. I set standards to be the most courageous, the most integrous and the most judicious leader possible. I am solely responsible for my own success and lead others to hold themselves accountable to the accomplishments they commit to achieve.

In conversations about the decisions of leaders, one prevailing idea was clear: You cannot separate a leader from the decisions she or he makes; the two are inescapably linked. This is why the strength of a leader is most often measured by the strength of her or his decisions. A strong decision can steer an entire organization toward unparalleled prosperity; a bad decision can do just the opposite, plunging a company into the depths of disrepair.

To make a sound decision, a leader must consider all knowledge available and from this knowledge, formulate a response. Writing for Forbes, contributor Mike Myatt separates the knowledge hierarchy available to all leaders into four distinct categories:

  • Gut instincts: Knowledge of this type comes from an experiential or emotional filter that has no foundation in analytical support but nonetheless often yields healthy results. An experienced leader can rely on proficiency accrued through decades of leadership to arrive at a decision that may seem to come straight from the “gut” but really is the systematic result of hard-earned common sense.
  • Data: This type of knowledge is comprised of facts, statistics or inputs provided to a given leader. Data can be anything from a spreadsheet of quarterly financial reporting to a manager-written employee review. Data can be flawed, incomplete or incorrect, so leaders often take data as a starting point for deeper, investigative decision-making rather than the end-all-be-all of the decision itself.
  • Information: Myatt calls information “an evolved or more complete data set … derived from a collection of processed data.” Information is data that has been applied context and meaning by a given team member. When analyzing information, leaders must also analyze the trustworthiness of its source.
  • Knowledge: In the knowledge hierarchy, actual knowledge sits at the top, according to Myatt. Knowledge encompasses information refined by expert analysis that has been tested. Because proof of concept exists, this type of knowledge is a reliable source for strong decision making. In essence, knowledge is the fact, scraped of any fiction.

Myatt says: “Even though people often treat theory and opinion as fact, they are not one and the same. I have witnessed many a savvy executive blur the lines between fact and fiction resulting in an ill-advised decision when decisions are made under extreme pressure and outside of a sound decision-making framework.”

And there is perhaps no better example of leaders making decisions under extreme duress than when you consider the Navy SEALs. Navy SEAL combat veteran Brent Gleeson, also writing for Forbes, explains that SEALs are trained to be innovative free thinkers, able to make rational decisions quickly and decisively.

“Good leaders surround themselves with trusted advisors and subject matter experts,” Gleeson says. “They can access a constant flow of data to make better decisions.”

In the end, Gleeson believes leaders must take all this knowledge into advisement but ultimately, make the final call — just as he did on the battlefield. This is why it’s critically important for every leader to not only be a strong decision-maker but also have the fundamental framework to sift through the information given, zero in on the relevant facts and decide.

So, what’s the message? The Latin root of the word “decision” literally means “to cut off.” In the context of leadership, this definition is telling. Making a decision is not about aggregating but about separating, cutting off the fictitious from the factual and doing so, augmenting your ability to more powerfully and decisively lead.

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