One of the best qualities a successful leader has is discernment. It is the ability to separate fact from fiction.
It is knowing who to listen to on important issues. It is being a systematic thinker and carefully collecting and considering all evidence from multiple sources and correctly interpreting it with your team. Brick, brick, brick…wall of evidence.
It is listening to a diverse spectrum of internal and external subject matter experts such as those who actually do the job and others recognized for their knowledge and experience with this specific subject. It is seeking and encouraging different and competing perspectives to be shared. More brains = fewer errors.
It is knowing when you have only been given part of the picture or half of the story. It is realizing when someone has a personal agenda. It is effectively evaluating the quality of the evidence and the credibility of those presenting information to you.
It is slowing down enough to think through all key aspects of implementation and major pros and cons of the decision. Do not rush get it right.
You will never have perfect information or all the time in the world. You can avoid self-inflicted errors such as bad data, the wrong metrics, and irrational reasoning. Depersonalize the decision – what is all the data really telling me?
We all make mistakes. Real leaders learn from them and correct them.
I have seen excellent decisions made with amazing results from the right data, metrics, analysis, and listening to a diverse and full range of stakeholders and subject matter experts on an issue. I have also witnessed ridiculously bad choices made when a leader listens solely to the wrong person, only sees the facts which fit their conclusion, disregards the data or metrics, or allows ego, emotion, or personalities to drive their decision.
I have two rules: first, someone too dumb to recognize when someone has lied to them when it is now obvious that occurred is too stupid to ever be on my team. You would be surprised at the number of CEOs who allow one person to fill their heads with a false reality to secure a decision they want, and the CEO does not see the obvious. Secondly, if you have not done your homework before asking me to make a consequential decision, I will not be making the decision you seek right now.
Leaders solve problems. Leaders make decisions. Leaders compare the actual outcomes to the promised results of their decisions so they can always make the best choices in the future.
Your decisions impact a lot of people. It is not about being brilliant. It is about being disciplined, avoiding the traps others do not, recognizing your strengths and limitations, and seeking to have the information you truly need to make the best decision. If it later turns out the decision needs to be modified or completely changed, leaders of integrity do not hesitate to do it because we want what is best for those we serve.
From the Teacher: Leadership Lessons with Dr. Saviak is a weekly column with the esteemed Joseph C. Saviak, Ph.D., J.D., M.A., M.S., Management Consulting & Leadership Training
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