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Being a Decisive Leader Isn't Always Easy


“Ultimately, what defines a hard decision isn’t so much the decision itself, but how it is perceived by the decision maker.”
— Joseph Bikart

Leading through change can be a complex process requiring an awareness of the facts and the options available to us. The strength of good leadership is found in the integrity and decisiveness we display in trying times.


Indecision has destroyed many promising careers.


Sometimes an important decision may call for an unpopular change of direction, and at other times may require the elimination of positions releasing personnel through no fault of their own.


I reflect on my experiences making unpopular decisions early in my managerial and leadership journey. My relational style of leading made it especially difficult for me to make necessary decisions that would negatively impact my staff; I would lose sleep having to let people go.


I had to learn how good leaders summon the courage to do and say what others won’t. Like all good leaders, our success rests on how well we handle difficult choices. We cannot avoid the tough decisions and be successful. I eventually learned,

  • How to mentally prepare for decisions you would rather avoid?

  • With whom should you discuss the options available?

  • How much time do you have to decide?


It’s essential to make those unpopular decisions as soon as you have all the necessary data; this keeps you ahead of the rumor mills, and you know how quickly those whispers can travel.


As tricky as some decisions are, they must be made for the greater good with the organization’s future in mind. Leading well means doing the right thing no matter how unpopular.

It helps to think through some answers to possible questions and adequately respond to various reactions from team members. A reasonable degree of empathy equips us to address the needs of those adversely impacted by our difficult decisions.


Timing is a Factor


Although it is your responsibility to evaluate your options and make informed decisions, you’ll also encounter situations in which you must think on your feet. Great leaders must, at times, act with limited information. Don’t hesitate, act on your knowledge, follow your instincts, and don’t waste time second-guessing yourself.


Don’t Underestimate the Power of Motivation


Your motivation to act comes from your integrity to stay the course you mapped out. Consider how the team benefits from your decisiveness and honest communication.


Motivation isn’t a mere emotional lift; it’s more substantial. Motivation enables us to see the possibilities around us in adverse circumstances.


Motivation shifts our perception allowing us to think clearer making better-informed decisions.


Andrea Pohankova remarks, “Decision-making and motivation are interdependent and mutually influencing. Decision making is a process which affects the outer and inner motivation of the decision maker.”


The Relational Trust Factor


People are inclined to trust relational leaders who understand them. More than a compelling vision, they will follow leaders willing to make unpopular decisions for the right reasons.


I found that people tend to be more secure, perform better, and are more willing to deliver beyond expectations when they know where they stand with leaders who respect and value them, even through difficult times.


In Closing,

Our perception of a situation undoubtedly influences our decisions. How we see a problem can sometimes be a problem in itself. Strong team relationships enable us to weigh our options and make better-informed decisions confidently.



*** This article was authored by John Picarello, Chief Leadership Officer at Lions Pride Leadership Co. ***

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