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How Great Leaders Make Hard Decisions (and you can too)

By June 28, 2018

great leaders

Are you willing to make hard decisions?

Decision-making – regarded as the cognitive process resulting in the selection of a belief and/or a course of action among several alternative possibilities. ~ Wikipedia

Despite the glory, attention, and accolades, as well as the cultural and financial benefits that can make leadership an attractive position, there is another side to the coin. With leadership comes the responsibility of making the hard decisions that steer the course of our community, organization, or society as a whole.

Great leaders are often defined, not by their ability to lead in times of calm, but in moments of turmoil when quick, hard decisions must be made.

Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.” — General George Patton

For many people, great leadership is synonymous with battle and war. Napoleon, Winston Churchill, and Alexander the Great all lead armies. Their decisions affected the course of human history.

The great questions of the day will not be settled by means of speeches and majority decisions but by iron and blood.” ~ Otto von Bismarck

Though not necessarily impacting the course of human history, business leaders are faced with hard decisions everyday. The decisions yields happiness, growth and prosperity. The others lead to stripe, decline and scarcity.

I have made the tough decisions, always with an eye toward the bottom line.” ~ Donald Trump

The “Bottom Line” may not always be our primary motivation, but there is massive pressure to produce when other people’s livelihood rests upon the success of your decisions.

Tough decisions are NOT always popular inside a business. The staff’s motivation will NOT always align with the organization’s greater good.

The difficulty was not that of following a moral principle at personal cost; the difficulty was that of knowing what to do when there is more than one principal, and when the principles clash.” ― Elton Trueblood, Abraham Lincoln: Lessons in Spiritual Leadership

Great leaders must have the conviction to make tough decisions and stand by those decisions in the face of criticism.

I understand everybody in this country doesn’t agree with the decisions I’ve made. And I made some tough decisions. But people know where I stand.” ~ George W Bush

Love him or hate him from a political standpoint, America always knew where George W Bush stood. He made good decisions which have benefitted our country and he made bad decisions that have hurt our country.

The realization that not every decision we make will produce positive results is profound. Great leaders realize that inherent risk comes with every decision made each day. Sometimes that risk is small, sometimes great, and there is always the possibility it won’t work out as planned.

Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.” ― Peter F. Drucker

Great leaders have courage.

It’s courage that guides a great leader’s decision making when things get tough and the nay-sayers start to shout dissent over his ability to lead.

Choose always the way that seems the best, however rough it may be. Custom will soon render it easy and agreeable.” – Pythagoras

Tough decisions can include choosing to drop a longstanding product line, invest in expensive technology, or add new staff. These decisions can have unpredictable consequences no matter how much planning and preparation is done prior. However, when decisions align well with the corporate value structure, great leaders do not view them as hard.

It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”  ~ Roy Disney

[Tweet “Hard decisions, that fall in line with our values, are NOT hard decisions.”]

How Great Leaders Make Hard Decisions

Great leaders realize that hard decisions are part of the job. They do not shy away or deflect. Great leaders embrace hard decisions, use every piece of information available, including their own emotional cues, and then act with the knowledge that every decision will have positive outcomes as well as negative.

Then they move on to the next decision that needs to made.

“If you obsess over whether you are making the right decision, you are basically assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another.

The universe has no fixed agenda. Once you make any decision, it works around that decision. There is no right or wrong, only a series of possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that you experience.

If this sounds too mystical, refer again to the body. Every significant vital sign- body temperature, heart rate, oxygen consumption, hormone level, brain activity, and so on- alters the moment you decide to do anything… decisions are signals telling your body, mind, and environment to move in a certain direction.” ~ Deepak Chopra

How do you make hard decisions?  

Share in the comments below…

Thank you and good luck,

Ryan Hanley