Leadership requires decisions

On the importance of decision making to leadership.

Introduction

Imagine a scenario with a group of engineers presenting two viable options to a manager to progress a project forward: both options are laid out in detail; both have merit; but the engineers cannot choose a way forward without guidance from the manager. Which option should the manager decide to implement?

Alternatives to making a decision

Sometimes a manager will stall a decision by using a number of tactics such as:

  1. Offering a third option for the engineers to go off and investigate before reporting back their findings.
  2. Asking the engineers to gather input from more people before a decision can be made.
  3. Asking the engineers to write up their proposals in more detail.

This stalling can often be for legitimate reasons, after all the approaches described above are useful, however sometimes a manager does not want to be the one making the decision, so they are simply stalling for time.

Fear of being caught out

From the perspective of some managers, you are never wrong if you never make a decision. Sadly in office politics, this statement holds true. If you give a problem enough time, someone else will eventually decide what to do, or it will be neglected enough to be forgotten about.

"you are never wrong if you never make a decision"

Leadership deficit

The lack of a decision making capacity in management results in a leadership deficit, one which engineers or any other knowledge workers will quickly identify, and resent. Management are expected to make difficult decisions from time to time, and may even get these wrong, but not facing up to them is the biggest mistake to make.

John Collins

I have been writing about web technology and software development since 2001. I am the developer of the Alpha Framework for PHP, and the five.today personal productivity app. I love open source, technology, and economics.

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