Why do leaders sometimes struggle with decision-making? There are at least five major reasons. The first is fear of the unknown. The leader may not have knowledge or experience concerning the decision at hand. He or she may be looking for some sort of assurance or even a guarantee their decision will be the right one. You’ve probably heard someone say, “I don’t want to make a decision until I get all of the facts.” Of course, it’s important to collect as much information as possible about any decision. However, if you wait until you get all the facts, it will no longer be a decision. It will be a conclusion. Decisions are made without all the facts. That’s why they’re called decisions.
The second reason for putting off a decision is fear of failure. No one wants to fail in front of his or her followers, friends, or family. No one wants to make the wrong choice. No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I hope I make lots of mistakes and poor decisions today.” Public embarrassment is not something people aspire to. No leader deliberately wants to be wrong.
The third reason for hesitating is fear of rejection. Leaders are no different from those who are not in leadership positions. Everyone wants to be liked and appreciated. No one looks forward to being criticized, made a laughingstock, or separated from the group. Those in leadership positions instinctively know that not everyone will be pleased with their decision. They know decision-making is not part of a popularity contest. The leader is alone in their final decision. Their decision could affect the lives and finances of many people. Any sane person would naturally feel hesitation in making the final call.
The fourth factor in putting off a decision is because of a fear of commitment. When you commit to a task or a decision, you take responsibility for that task or decision. It’s common and understandable that people shy away from accountability. It has been my experience that one of the striking places where you see the avoidance of responsibility and accountability is within governmental agencies. Often the person you’re dealing with passes the final decision on to someone else for approval. Decisions move from one department to another, and time for decision-making drags on. The reason I want you to help me make a decision is that when everything goes wrong, I can turn back to you—you talked me into it!
The fifth reason is rather subtle. It’s the fear of success. If the leader makes a good decision and everything turns out in a positive light, it sets a standard and expectation that must continually be exceeded. Who can live up to the high mark of always making the right decisions and never any poor or wrong decisions? The pressure becomes overwhelming and creates a desire to move away from being always responsible and accountable for future events.
Decision-making is not an easy task. Leaders are not promised a rose garden where everything is sunny and bright and every decision is right. As a leader you’re hired to make decisions. If everyone else makes decisions for you, then you are not needed. Our families, our schools, our businesses, our community, and our government desperately need leaders who are responsible and accountable decision makers.