[December 12, 2013] Making timely decisions is the hallmark of a good leader. And, the ability to come to grips with the fact that leaders make decisions and do so in a way that benefits the group should be ingrained in all of us.
“Be willing to make decisions. That’s the most important quality in a good leader.” – George S. Patton
However, what this does not mean is that decisions are made quickly (although that is often the case) or that decisions by a leader must be made at all.
As a newly minted Army second lieutenants, we received a clear message from our seniors (both officers and non-commissioned officers) that decisions were to be made timely – they meant quickly and accurately. The best officers, we were told, make both quick and good decisions.
Yet, as we advance in responsibilities and experience, it was easier to see that timely decision-making means making a decision when required, at the time when it is needed. Senior leaders do this by methodically practicing timely decision-making – the methodology becoming more art and instinct, than science and process.
There are times when decisions should not be made early if there is no compelling reason. By waiting, more information may be gained or the circumstances for the decision changed. Making an early decision, therefore, could be counterproductive.
There will also be times that the leader should consciously not make a decision at all. This is particularly true when someone else in the organization should make that decision or to consciously observe an outcome without that decision.
Too often junior leaders are anxious to decide and then move on to the next issue. The lesson here is that a little patience goes a long way to supporting success.