“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” – Theodore Roosevelt
As leaders we all have difficult decisions to make. We’re faced with seemingly endless combinations of opportunities, threats, fires to put out, etc. Somehow we have to navigate through all of that and end up with some kind of action. At some point we have to actually do something about all of this stuff.
Too many leaders abdicate their decision making. They allow other people or outside forces to make decisions for them. They can’t or won’t or simply don’t decide. It might seem obvious that this isn’t great leadership, yet it happens all the time.
When I talk to leaders about this, they usually agree it’s not good to let the world make your decisions for you. They agree that just settling for whatever option is left when all the others have passed you by is not the best thing to do. But they usually just think of that in terms of disappointing company performance, or missed opportunities, or something like that – and those are valid.
But there’s another cost that leaders don’t always think about. Your people want you to choose. Your people want to know that you have a vision for the business and that you’re not afraid to chase that vision. Your people want to believe that somebody around here has some idea what’s going on and is actively trying to steer this bus.
When leaders seem chronically indecisive, or when opportunities routinely seem to be ignored or simply missed, or when crises arise and everyone just seems paralyzed, it erodes trust with your people. They lose confidence in you as a leader and in the company as a whole. They start to wonder what the business is really trying to accomplish and why they should want to be part of it.
You can’t let fear of making the wrong choice stop you. Not choosing is itself a choice. You can do research, you can get advice and input from others, you can think and contemplate. But at some point, you have to make the decision. Yes, some of them will be wrong. But you can’t let that possibility keep you from doing your job.
If you can’t make decisions, or if you’re not willing to make choices, or if the chance of making a mistake paralyzes you, that doesn’t make you a bad person. It just means you can’t be the leader. So go work somewhere for somebody else doing exactly what you’re told to do. It’s your choice.