The wrong decision can often be better than no decision at all.
If we act with good integrity, good intent, consult where possible and then make a decision that ultimately proves to be incorrect, we will be forgiven. However, if we fail to make any decision at all for the fear of making the wrong decision we wont be forgiven.
True leadership is less about following policy and procedure and more about leading in times when there is no policy and procedure. It’s about making decisions.
Having led and been part of international teams working in times of crisis and disaster in countries including Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Saudi Arabia and of course Australia, I have witnessed many examples of leaders. Some good, some great and some who had to be replaced because they lacked the courage to make difficult decisions in times of crisis. The great leaders were the ones who surrounded themselves with good people and listened to their ideas, they then stood up and make the difficult decisions and continued to keep making decisions. There was a clear demonstration of confidence and courage, but without arrogance or disregard for the implication of their actions.
Those leaders and indeed organisations who are recognised as leaders in the marketplace are often the first to move when there is a gap and no precedent as to how to respond. It is those leaders who react with speed that often stand out amongst their peers and competitors. If we stand around waiting until we have all the answers to all of the possible questions someone will beat us to it.
When there is no path that has been trodden by those who went first, it does take courage to lead the way. When leaders have teams of people, company resources and reputation at stake, setting the new direction does take courage.
Working within the disaster zone following the Bali bombings, many challenges that were experienced, were experienced for the first time. Of course there existed policy and procedures for dealing with crime scenes, the recovery and identification of bodies, but there was nothing in place that dealt with the scale and complexity of the challenges that were faced by those on the ground.
For one of the leaders, he was so fearful of making the wrong decision that he failed to make any decision at all. He was returned home and replaced with someone who had the courage to make the hard decisions. We would have been better if the wrong decision had been made than sitting around waiting for a decision that didn’t come. At least with the wrong decision there would have been action and from that we could have corrected, set a new direction and gone again.
The more senior position you hold within an organisation the more likelihood it is that the decisions that you make will have a far reaching impact upon the lives of an ever increasing number of people. For some of these decisions you will lay awake at night asking yourself “is what I am about to do the right thing?” You will make that decision and then you will spend another number of countless nights awake thinking “Is what I have done the right thing?” Some of these decisions will be on a business level and some will be on a personal level. But as leaders you should take comfort from the fact that you had the courage to make difficult decisions, because that’s what leadership is all about.