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Decision Making for Leaders

Leadership and Management Skills for Engineers

Decision Making for Leaders: Intro

Something that differentiates leaders from the rest is their ability to make a decision. You’ll find people naturally tend to turn to leaders or certainly consult them when a definitive choice has to be made. As such, decision making is a particularly important skill for those aspiring to be leaders.

Decision making often relies on the ability to look at the evidence and then decide, based on the option best suited to what you are aiming to achieve. Central to this idea is being clear about your aim. It sounds obvious, but taking a moment to consider and then articulate your aim is useful for clarifying thought and communicating your objective to others, prior to making the decision.

Decision Making for Leaders: Using Evidence...

Mentioned earlier was the idea of assessing the evidence. The ‘evidence’ may come in a variety of forms. It may be presented as a range of options, each with pros and cons. Assess the positives and negatives of each option, whilst paying attention to the likely implications and then make your decision. It sounds straightforward, but in reality ‘assessing the pros and cons’ could be anything from a simple mental assessment to a detailed study - it very much depends on the nature and importance of the decision being taken.

Like all these things the assessment is tailored to the task in hand. Likewise the ‘options’ may be a range of clearly defined costed alternatives, backed up with research, all the way through to simply stating ‘we could do A, B or C’. Tailoring your options to the task at hand is the key.

Assessment of the pros and cons requires an understanding of the consequences of each option. Considerations like the likelihood and the potential severity may come into your mental assessment. For a given option, do the positive points outweigh the negative points? If so how does this option compare to the others?  Look to see which of the options best meets your overall aim. By the way, part of your assessment may include the ‘do nothing’ option which will also have its pros and cons.

Above describes a logical approach to decision making. Alongside this, leaders are often flexible in their approach to making decisions. Sometimes they will use a logical approach. On other occasions they will use their experience to come to decisions quickly, making an assessment of what’s urgent versus what is important. Alternatively, leaders sometimes make decisions based on ‘gut instinct’ – a hunch they just feel. Again this partly relies on experience. Gut instinct can facilitate a quick decision or may still apply after reviewing all the evidence, when it is difficult to separate the appeal of the different options.


Decision Making for Leaders: The Importance of Integrity...

Importantly, all leaders are responsible and accountable for their decisions. This includes the consequences of poor decisions. Dealing with this with integrity and not passing blame is the hallmark of a good leader.

Decision making requires confidence and sometimes courage. You need to be able to be bold, be decisive and live with the consequences of the decision. The fast pace of most engineering and manufacturing operations often requires the ability to quickly make an assessment and be decisive. Typically there are several ‘right’ answers. You simply have to go with the evidence you have at the time. Normally not all the evidence is available as there’ll be limited time to gather it.  It’s often better to use your initiative and make a decision, rather than just procrastinate.

Once you’ve made a decision, get on and do whatever you planned to do. Just do it! Get on and take action. Decisions need to be followed with deeds.

Decision Making for Leaders

Next...Leadership and Teams: Inspiring others

Back to Essential Leadership and Management 

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