Leaders: here is one easy way to get your decision-making wrong

When I was involved in leadership in an international church in Switzerland, the elders and I were keen to provide a leadership development opportunity for a younger, emerging leader. Which – in and of itself – is not a bad thing to do. I read yesterday, in the foreword to a book called The Emerging Leader, that ‘organisations that thrive are always growing and nurturing future leaders.’

So we allocated this emerging leader to be part of a team that had been part of organising an important event in the life of the church.

Laudable, no?

Problem was that we didn’t consult with the people who were already on that event planning team. We just parachuted our guy in there. Unfortunately not everyone on the planning team was overjoyed.

I guess you could always say that we were the elders of the church so we had the authority to make these kinds of decisions. That’s what leaders are meant to do: lead and make decisions.

But that would be to miss a Very Important Point (which we did).

Recently I’ve been reading Reggie McNeal’s book on leadership: Practicing Greatness. In my opinion it’s not as good as A Work of Heart (which I recommend highly), but it’s a worthwhile read and I’d suggest that a leadership team or a peer mentoring group of leaders could benefit from reading it together. The book discusses seven disciplines that leaders who aspire to greatness should practice:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Self-development
  • Mission
  • Decision making
  • Belonging
  • Aloneness

Decision making.

McNeal discusses 6 elements of good decision making:

  1. Ask the right questions
  2. Get enough of the right kind of information
  3. Consider timing
  4. Involve the right people
  5. Operate with the right motives
  6. Understand intended outcomes

It’s useful, practical stuff.

What might have helped my colleagues and me in the decision I’ve presented about developing an emerging leader is #4: involve the right people. McNeal highlights a number of different kinds of people, including ‘those affected by the decision.’

We didn’t do that. We should have done.

Leadership decision-making 101, really.

This kind of thing is not about position or authority. It’s about valuing team members and keeping them on board.

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