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What Type of Decision Maker Are You?

“The building is on fire! Get out, now!”

“It is lunchtime. We are going to Applebee’s, now!”

One of these is appropriate. One of these is not.

As leaders, we need to exercise situational decision making, choosing the optimal method by which we leverage our authority and influence to direct those entrusted to our care.

When the building is on fire, unilateral decisiveness is prudent. We are not going to assemble an evacuation planning committee. In this crisis, the boss (noun) needs to boss (verb). However, when deciding upon a multi-year marketing campaign, the ultimate decision maker would be wise to employ a more methodical process by which the environment is analyzed, courses of action are developed, alternatives are poked and prodded, and minority opinions are aired. Then the decision is made.

Psychometric analyses are available which provide pretty good predictive modeling of our dispositional attributes. These relatively short self-reports (where you answer questions about yourself honestly) are good at placing us into “personality buckets”, such as introversion/extraversion or where we sit on a sliding scale when it comes to how we judge the world around us.

The schools within the fields of neuroscience and cognitive psychology may not be in unanimous agreement as to how are brains process decision-making tasks. They are, however, fairly aligned in agreeing that we each have some unique neuroanatomical or psychological predispositions, reflected through our personalities, that inform our preference for how we “make the call”.

Are you the man or woman that can get half the information you need and make a decision? Great.

Do you need to look under every rock, twice, before you can decide something? Great.

Neither is inherently wrong. But neither is inherently right. This is where situational leadership comes in.

Each of us has a natural inclination (or preference) for how we make decisions. The quick deciders think the researchers are too slow. The researchers think the quick deciders are too rash. The answer is not necessarily a Goldilocks approach, where you meet in the middle; rather, it requires some introspection and self-imposed rules.

First, honestly assess what your natural disposition is. Quick or methodical? Either is fine! But next, think through some hypothetical scenarios where each could be advantageous or detrimental, endearing or offputting. Mentally role play what it would be like to be on the receiving end of those decisions in those circumstances. How would you react? How would others?

You need not try to overwrite your decision-making programming. You just need to be cognizant of what it is, appreciate the value of a different approach, and purposeful in choosing which is best suited to the decision at hand.


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