President Truman famously kept a sign on his desk with the words “The Buck Stops Here.”This sign indicated that, ultimately, decisions cannot be passed to anyone else. President Truman was acknowledging that decisions can be hard – that there are always other options to consider, approaches to balance and people to convince. He was also acknowledging that the role of the leader is to take those decisions and make them stick. And “making them stick” is often the hardest part.
When you are clear about your role and responsibility within an organization, and when you have a clear sense of vision and the strategy that is being followed to realize that vision, then – as a leader – you have a great platform for success. What you have is a framework for your decision making – and it can prove very effective from a timeliness as well as a risk point of view. You should be able to:
- Clearly identify where a decision will align with strategy – and where it goes against the grain
- Determine which decision will receive the blessing of your stakeholders and which will not
- See a path to realization of your decision through your teams, technologies and processes
In How Great Leaders Decide, Lisa Petrilli explains this as the combination of the goddesses Nike and Athena:
A great leader portrays the best of Nike and Athena when they:
- Make a strategic decision
- Commit to the decision
- Communicate the decision
- Champion the decision
- Hold others accountable to executing according to the decision
But as Lisa points out, Nike is also the Goddess of Speed. A leader’s decision cannot be delayed indefinitely – there is always an urgency involved. And this is where alignment comes in. As a leader, you need to ensure that you have the right people in place who can advise you. You need to ensure that vision and strategy is aligned. And once your decision is made, you need to communicate your decision and own its impact as it drives through your business.
It’s hard enough to make decisions as President Truman pointed out, but with some systematic planning you can effectively remove the barriers that can promote indecision, allowing you to focus on what counts – wisdom, speed and action.
Nina Nets It Out: We can all get caught in the busy-ness of leadership. But remember – the buck stops with you. Wherever you can, remove the distractions and focus on making, communicating and executing on your decisions. After all, decision making is a leader’s core competence.