When it comes to leadership, no matter how much a leader may seek the valuable input from their village, at the end of the day, the final decision, regardless of the matter at hand, is the leader’s all alone. This fact makes for interesting management of the decision-making process. To be sure, leaders have different styles of leadership and management that they employ throughout their careers … in fact, even throughout any given business day. Some leaders are inclusive and seek input from as many people as possible, while others retreat to their offices to individually contemplate the best course of action. Leaders realize that the buck stops with them and regardless of the outcome, they own the result.
One thing that leaders must learn, especially those that lean toward an inclusive style, is that they are, as with George W. Bush’s nickname, the “decider”. While they are happy to solicit thoughts and input from others, they must be comfortable with the fact that not everyone will be pleased with the final decision. But they are not in friendship positions, they are in leadership positions.
A leader’s ultimate responsibility is to the best interests of the business not to any individual or group within the organization. Of course, ideally, leaders want to be both respected and liked. However, ultimately leaders must live by the expression “it is better to be respected and not liked than to be liked and not respected.” This is what I mean by “democratic dictatorship”. The success of a leader is in the making of decisions and successfully achieving outcomes or as Jim Estill succinctly states, “Successful People Do Tough Things” — even (or especially) the most democratic of dictators.
Nina Nets It Out: Be sure to understand your role as a leader and always know who your primary responsibility is to. Don’t fall victim to trying to please all the people around you, as this will ultimately lead to an unachievable expectation. While asking for input is often beneficial, the final decision and its repercussion is yours and yours alone.
This is an excellent description of the core skill of a manager, and of the various ways effective ones express it – I especially like your note that these can vary not only across individuals, but across time in the same individual.
Everything a manager does flows from the ability to make decisions – from framing the issue to executing the outcome. It is the defining characteristic of a manager upon which the value of everything else we spend our time talking about depends, and without which none of those things matters.
Again – thanks for the nice treatment of this, and the memorable title phrase!
My favorite lines:
1. “. . .they are not in friendship positions, they are in leadership positions.”
2. “always know who your primary responsibility is to.”
Since my first crack at leadership was, like Jim, in the military, the stakes were high and the mission was crystal clear. That’s actually a pretty good combination of factors to guide decision-making.
But the same is true in business, with your family, or leading a volunteer organization. If the goals are clear and people have agreed that this is where they want to be, then one has an obligation to make decisions accordingly.
The trap lies in believing that deviating in order to make people happy will somehow boost one’s stock. Once people realize that you are willing to make exceptions for them, they begin to see that you are willing to sacrifice your organizational obligation in order to be “liked.”
As a result, you lose the respect of those around you. And the ones who claim to be friends are only “friends” as long as you continue to make exceptions that benefit them.
Good one, Nina.
Fine post, Nina. It’s always important for a leader to be clear with everyone about how a decision will be made. Otherwise, the people you ask for input may take your request as a promise that you will make the final decision the same way they would . You need to be clear about how the final decision will be made, especially if your style is to solicit lots of ideas and input and even more if you sometimes give the group or part of the group decision rights.
I specially enjoyed the following: “But they are not in friendship positions, they are in leadership positions.”
This is extremely difficult to achieve if you have been promoted from within the company and your ex-peers are now your direct reports. It is a difficult thing to do at times, but there must be a clear differentiation between friendship and leadership roles.
No doubt you are correct and it is a difficult relationship to manage. However, ultimately, this is in the best interests of the company and all parties involved. In my experience, people recognize the role of the leader is just that and, generally, don’t take things personally.