Indecision may or may not be my problem. — Jimmy Buffett
A story is told that former president Ronald Reagan once had an aunt who took him to a cobbler for a pair of new shoes. The cobbler asked young Reagan, “Do you want square toes or round toes?” Unable to decide, Reagan didn’t answer, so the cobbler gave him a few days.
Several days later the cobbler saw Reagan on the street and asked him again what kind of toes he wanted on his shoes. Reagan still couldn’t decide, so the shoemaker replied, “Well, come by in a couple of days. Your shoes will be ready.” When the future president did so, he found one square-toed and one round-toed shoe! “This
will teach you to never let people make decisions for you,” the cobbler said to his indecisive customer. “I learned right then and there,” Reagan said later, “if you don’t make your own decisions, someone else will.”
Indecisive leadership is a crippling character trait for leaders. When your organization needs clear direction and decisive action, a waffling leader can cause more harm than good.
With so much at stake, why do leaders waffle and struggle with decision making? Three primary reasons come to mind.
They lack clarity
Leaders who struggle with decision making may lack the necessary clarity needed to make the necessary decision. Rather than making the wrong decision, they make no decision at all.
They lack confidence
In some situations, leaders withhold decision making because they are not confident enough in their own instincts. Rather than take a risk and make a decision, they play it safe and everyone is left dangling.
They lack consensus
In some cases, leaders withhold decision making because they don’t have a consensus on the best path forward. Rather than offend a few with a decision, the leader demoralizes everyone by not making one.
So what is a leader to do? How can a leader overcome this agonizing dilemma? Here are a few ideas.
Trust your instincts
A confident leader will trust his or her instincts in times of decision. Deep down you have a strong intuition that guides you. Trust it.
Decisive leaders are informed leaders. Those most affected by your decisions should be the first at the table of discussion. As it’s been said, “the person who sweeps the floor should choose the broom.” Welcome input, but make your decisions on principle, not politics.
Clarify your values
The worst thing you can do as a leader is to make a decision for the sake of making one. Roy Disney was right when he said, “When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” When making a decision make sure it aligns with your values. If not, don’t do it.
Check your motives
First and foremost in your decision making should be what’s best for your organization and people. If you are making decisions to gain popularity or to gain favor with some to the detriment of others you are sowing the seeds of low morale. You must have the best interest of the team at heart and not just a few.
Leadership is about making hard decisions. Indecisive leaders make it harder — on themselves and those they lead. Your path forward begins by acknowledging what your indecisive tendencies are doing to your leadership and how it’s impacting the morale of those you lead.