7 Ways Effective Leaders Make Decisions

Updated 08/28/19
decision-making skills
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Effective leaders make decisions quickly. They may not always be the right decisions in some cases, but the best leaders have the discipline (and the confidence) to make many small and large decisions every day in order to move their businesses forward. So how do they do it without letting fear and doubt creep stop them? Ahead we outline a few of the key learnings we've garnered from effective leaders to help you learn how to make decisions with the same speed and skill.

As Jessica Alba told Forbes, "you never want to be the smartest person in the room." You are as smart as the team you surround yourself with, so make sure you know your weaknesses and hire people to fill those knowledge gaps. Then you have trusted experts to advise you when you have to make decisions that are outside of your comfort zone. Excellent advisers are also great sounding boards. You want peers that will push you to defend your choices so that you make the best ones.

Procrastination is one of the biggest challenges leaders face. The trouble is, we often postpone or avoid what we are most afraid of. Try tackling your most anxiety-inducing problems first so that you nip them in the bud and prevent that stress from festering and becoming even more uncomfortable. We also tend to put off decisions that are mundane or less exciting than others. Don't let the "boring decisions" hold you back. For instance, if you have to make several legal decisions before tax season, don't bump those to the end of your list just so you can focus on user engagement ideas. When you're running a business, the least glamorous challenges are just as important as the most glamorous and exciting ones.

In order to be an effective leader who makes positive decisions for your team, you have to be open to constructive criticism. Always ask yourself and your team members how you can improve. Then strategize for how to execute on the feedback you receive. For instance, if you hear that your thought process, while sound, isn't always readily apparent to your team, try writing a weekly email update outlining the big decisions you made that week, along with a few bullet points as to why you made them and what you hope the outcome to be. 

Leaders make countless decisions on a daily basis, most of which have to be made in total chaos with minimal information. It's hard to remember your long-term goals when you're faced with dozens of small decisions each day. Check in with your long-term goals at the end of each day to make sure that you're leading your team in the right direction. As a leader, you need to be able to focus on the details and then rise above one-off issues and see the bigger picture.

No matter how flustered you are, never let your team know that you are anything other than calm and optimistic. As a leader, you hold the key to team morale and company composure. Make sure to fine-tune your emotional intelligence so that you create an environment for your employees to flourish. A stressful, angry, or anxiety-ridden boss makes for a testy work environment and causes your team to lose faith in your decision-making abilities. Save your frustration, yelling voice, and tears for home. The office demands your best behavior at all times.

You can be a decision-making genius, but if you can't articulate how your decisions add to the overall goals of your company, you will lose the faith of your team. Being able to effectively communicate your thought process and connect it to a broader company vision is also an essential tool for making decisions. You want to be strategic, rational, and always moving forward. Some leaders limit the time they spend on each decision in order to get to all of their company's needs. To do this, you need to clearly assess a problem, dissect the options, and have a methodology for picking the best one. Let your team be a part of the decision-making process by keeping them in the loop.

A study published by Sheena Iyengar of Columbia Business School and Mark Lepper of Stanford indicates that people have a harder time making decisions when there are more than five or six options available. To help yourself make wise, time-effective decisions, limit your options. Consider three to four possible scenarios, and weigh the pros and cons of each. Any more considerations than that and you will suffer from a paradox of choice. 

Perfect your decision-making skills with some of our favorite resources below.

Gerd Gigerenzer Risk Savvy $16
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Edoardo Binda Zane Effective Decision-Making $2
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Are you decisive? Share your decision-making skills with us in the comments.

This post was originally published on March 7, 2016, and has since been updated. 

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