“Truly successful decision-making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking.” – Malcolm Gladwell. 

Effective Leaders Are Good Decision-makers

We all imagine great leaders to be quick, agile, and effective decision-makers. Such leaders do not dither. They analyze the available information effectively, work out their decisions quickly, and communicate the resulting goals to their reports/followers.

Successful decision-makers use their heads, hearts, and guts to arrive at decisions that stand the test of time and scrutiny.

We perceive successful decision-makers as strong leaders. 

To be a good decision-maker, a leader needs to develop the skills and behaviors that allow him/her to defeat anxiety, stress, uncertainty, and the negative attitude of peers and reports.

In my book “Intelligent Leadership,” I have identified seven decision-making elements that define optimal behaviors and leadership skills.

  • Making rational decisions requires the use of your cognitive skills. Rational decision-making involves the collection and analysis of data from diverse sources and the objective assessment of alternative solutions.
  • Good decision-making also considers alignment with the core values of the organization. To make well-aligned decisions, you need to listen to yourself and others. Decisions must be widely accepted within the organization.
  • As a good decision-maker, you need to trust your instincts since such decisions require a balance of instinctual and rational thinking.
  • Combine these three ways of thinking through wisdom into a whole that will hold its own against any kind of scrutiny.

To develop these behaviors and to put them to use through decision-making, you need to:

  • Understand and honor the culture of your organization
  • Have a clear picture of your organization’s decision-making authority structure
  • Understand the context of the decision and factor it into your decisions

Some leadership qualities/abilities facilitate optimal decision-making.

Emotional Intelligence and Decision-making

Emotional intelligence is a reoccurring element of intelligent leadership. It permeates decision-making, allowing you to exercise emotional self-control when deciding on matters of strategic importance.

Emotions are the archenemies of objectivity and successful decision-making. They cloud judgment by triggering a fight-or-flight response or delivering a shot of adrenaline.

A good decision-maker is a person capable of overriding these emotional responses.

Handling Uncertainty

Decision-making is challenging because it entails uncertainty, and we humans are averse to uncertainty.

Beyond its paralyzing power over decision-making, uncertainty causes us to base our decisions on unrelated things and events. By choosing to err on the side of caution due to uncertainty, we often make grave mistakes.

Considering alternative solutions for problems is an asset for the decision-making process. It often makes sense, however, to limit our choices, thus avoiding indecision resulting from exhaustion.

An overabundance of choices can have a crippling effect on decision-making.

Science has defined the maximum number of options you should consider before arriving at a decision. According to a 2000 study, you may get lost in your choices if you are facing more than five or six of them.

Weighing Evidence with Intuition: The Key to Balancing Reason with Instinct

Good decision-makers trust their intuition and use it actively to great satisfaction. Do not confuse intuition with guesswork. True intuition is the result of possessing a deep understanding of a subject. The more you know about something, the more you can rely on your intuition in that specific matter.

Intuition is that faint inner voice that the bustle of everyday life so readily drowns out. To develop an “ear” for this voice, incorporate a meditative practice in your daily routine.


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