Sunday, April 22, 2012


Decisiveness is the third aspect of Personal Mastery. I consider it also a key aspect of leadership, the others being Presence and Vision. John Kennedy wrote already in Profiles of Courage that will is a most elusive power.
I remember many meetings in which explicitly and formally common decisions were reached - that were never executed. And, of course, some things are simply done, even when no decision has officially been taken. We know that also from our personal lives. Many plans, many decisions are never put into practice, while we do all kinds of things on impulse, both bad and good. We have truly systematically analyzed which car is the best for us or what house would be the ideal choice. and then we buy an other car, rent an other house. Decisions are the product of ratio, of emotion and of will. Decisiveness is the quality to end thinking and feeling and to go for something.
Why is decisiveness more rare than indecisiveness? Because decision commits us to the outcome of the decisions. Decisions are fateful. They will be seen and felt as our decisions. We ourselves are on the line, our reputation, our money, our future. We may succeed - and we may fail. Decisiveness separates the men from the boys - and the women from the girls. Strong men tremble before straightforward commitments like marriage and kids. I am not ready for a steady relationship yet. Those people never will.

There are several methodologies to avoid decisions. The first is smothering everything in vague wordings in which actions are hidden and actors even more. Political bureaucracies are full of avoidance behavior. To fail, especially conspicuously, is the fate worse than death. If a company is ailing, find out which managers didn't make mistakes in the last 3-5 years. Then fire them all.
The second methodology is to hide behind authorities, like the quotes of famous people or the reports of overpaid consultants.
The third methodology is to go to astrologers, psychics or consult other forms of divination.

Whatever the merits and demerits of these methods, there is no escape from responsibility. Even the decision-maker who delays, vacillates, hangs his ears to others, has to decide to delay and vacillate. Even when decisions are taken in a group, someone decided or allowed that the decision should be taken by a group.
I have met several directors who were intellectually or constitutionally unable to make decisions. They simply ended the meeting. Not once, but several times. Till they drove their people crazy. The only people who don't go crazy because of an indecisive boss are the ones who were crazy already.
Indecisiveness is the worst form of impotence. Worse still, it is highly contagious, which the other kind of impotence isn't.

There is this side of the universe no method to educate and change those who have made dodging responsibility and accountability into an art form. Someone has to kick ass, the most primitive form of decisiveness known to man.
There must be in hell a special corner for members of supervisory boards who maintain an indecisive executive. Now I think of it, there must be many corners.

Courage without wisdom becomes recklessness. Wisdom without courage becomes cowardice. Of course, sometimes we should not decide, that is, we should decide to wait and see. For the moment. Our first two aspects of Personal Mastery are necessary to prevent decisiveness degenerating in blind and feverish chaotic actions. Clear-mindedness and Equanimity, remember!

What helps to be decisive? A clear mission. A clear role. Mental and physical health. A good energy level. Spirit.
Don't try to make people more decisive. Give them clear roles in an organization with a clear mission. And look for drive and energy when hiring them - unless they lack common sense and some calm. And for God's sake, give them a decisive boss.

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