If there is one thing that defines a leader, it is decisiveness. This is that indispensable ability to weigh the facts, select a course of action, then execute it at the right moment. When the heat is on and somebody needs to act, it is the leader who looks at everything, makes a plan, and moves forward without looking back.
Chuck Missler, US Naval Academy grad (class of 1956, pictured above), once said, “Weak men hurt people.” He made this statement in 1982, at a gathering where he spoke on business ethics. Chuck made his living as a professional executive in the Defense and semiconductor industries for over thirty years. He happened to be teaching a group of Christians to be ethical and stable in their business dealings. Chief among these qualities are decisiveness and keeping one’s word. “The sanctity of a commitment” was a value he saw in short supply after leaving the executive suite. At the time of this talk, he was CEO of Western Digital Corporation, a proven leader with ballast.
You will never get anywhere being wishy-washy. Vacillation and inability to come to a decision are fatal to leadership. In contrast, people will follow someone who knows where he is going and knows how to get there. And with dispatch, knowing that time is too precious to waste with “analysis paralysis.”
When the pressure’s on, the leader cannot afford to buckle. Time, money, confidence, respect; all are lost when someone positioned to do the right thing can’t make a decision or takes too much time doing so.
It is far better to make ten decisions and have seven of them prove to be good decisions rather than to wait and wait and only make two good decisions. The reason is that although both decisions turned out to be good, the effect of waffling has compromised your influence. Playing it safe often makes your followers feel unsafe. Why can’t he make up his mind? Are we staying or going?
Your high calling as a leader—whether as a husband, business leader, captain of a sports team, etc.–means being decisive. You cannot afford to be ambivalent in the clutch. It is charming when we watch “Fiddler on the Roof” and see it with Tevye the Dairyman. In real life, vacillating is uninspiring at best and dangerous at worst. It certainly doesn’t win our respect.
Being decisive and stable brings a host of benefits not only to the leader but to those who follow him or her. You earn admiration. You inspire those watching. In the marketplace, if you can weigh the facts and act quickly, you’re worth more money than those who can’t. If you’re a military leader, you will undoubtedly save more lives than you lose.
Here’s the challenge. This next month, make a calculated effort to make quicker decisions. Do this with anything from where to go out to eat to vacation plans to starting a new growth project, like a blog or exercise program. Weigh the evidence, do a cost/benefit analysis and then act.
You’re going to be pleasantly surprised.
Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work (Chip & Dan Heath)