The Leadership Playbook: Leaders Must Make Hard Decisions

There is a complicated client issue. You’re not sure what you should do. Doing nothing exposes you to the risk of losing the client. Taking some action may also put the client at risk. Being stuck between a rock and a hard place, you do nothing.

An A-player who is putting up the numbers is also seriously abusive to the people they work with–especially those they believe have no power and who they believe are the source of their problems because they don’t give this person what they want when they want it. You don’t want to deal directly  with the A-Player because they are delivering. You also can’t allow them to destroy the people with whom they work. You wait, hoping the problem will resolve itself. It doesn’t.

Another employee colors way outside the lines. They make deals that are out of line with what is possible, and they create situations that are a potentially legal liability. You’ve spoken to them about staying within the boundaries of what they are permitted to negotiate, but each deal brings more problems than the last. You’re not sure what it is going to take to change their behavior, and what you have tried hasn’t worked. You are paralyzed.

You’ve fallen behind your competitor who continues to innovate. Keeping pace–or leaping ahead–would mean that you have to change your overall strategy. Addressing this competitive mismatch is complicated, time-consuming, and it comes with a good amount of risk. To move, you need the support of the board. Doing nothing means the board is eventually going to act–and potentially that action will be a negative event for you.

Leaders make hard decisions. It means you deal with complicated client issues, doing what is right, even if it is unpopular, and even if it isn’t easy. You deal with problem employees based on your values, even if it costs you an A-Player. You make decisions based on non-negotiables by making them known, and by holding people accountable. You make decisions, knowing that you have incomplete information, and knowing that you cannot always be 100 percent certain that you are making the right decision at the right time.

Right or wrong, you must decide. This is what leaders do.

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Filed under: Leadership

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