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Simon says, “Make the tough or unpopular decision when necessary.”

One of Simon’s most challenging leadership dilemmas comes with this strategy. Simon takes everyone’s ideas and points of view into consideration, gets input from those who are familiar with the problem or issue, and consults with people who may have special interest in the outcome or an important perspective. A high level of consensus develops from these activities; and it is clear what most people think he should do.

Simon then struggles with the decision, processes it through the filter of his experience and judgment, and makes the one decision no one expected or can support. Even more exasperating for others is Simon’s inability to give them an explanation for his decision they can understand or accept. They think he is wrong, believe he has made things worse, and feel betrayed. They are unhappy and now are less trusting of anything Simon says or does. “He is just going to do whatever he wants to do. He doesn’t care what we think or feel. When he talks with us, he is just going through the motions. He is out of control and it does not matter what we say or do. There is no point in talking with him about anything. He won’t listen to anyone.”

Does Simon take the easy alternative and simply accept the advice and guidance others have provided, go with their preferred decision? If he does, few will second guess or find fault however things turn out. Additionally, he avoids the unpleasant need to deal with the “I told you so,” chorus if the consequences of his decision are not what Simon expects.

If Simon goes with his decision and things work out well, he may or may not get the credit. If things are worse, Simon gets the blame, whether his decision had anything to do with it or not. Had he done what they advised, things would be fine now. It is a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” dilemma, for sure.

Simon’s dilemma is at the heart of leadership. When should he defer to the collective wisdom of others and when should he go with his personal best judgment, given what he knows at the time? His solution is fairly simple, as it turns out. He always goes with the collective wisdom of others unless he believes very strongly they are wrong. It is not enough to believe he is right. He has to also believe they are wrong. Having made that decision, he may still go with the collective wisdom if he believes the consequences will not be excessively problematic or can be reversed, if necessary. They might be right; and even if they are not, their empowerment entitles them to their turn at bat, so to speak.

On those few occasions when Simon believes he is right and others are wrong and the consequences of going with their recommendations would be very negative and not reversible, Simon does what he has to do. He has only one responsible choice. He can handle people’s being unhappy or upset with him at times. He can not accept his failing to do what he knows needs done. Even more to the point, he could not accept his failing to lead.

•           A leader leads; and if he caves-in when the heat gets turned up, it is time for him to pass the torch along to a more legitimate leader.

Well, okay. Simon did not invent the idea. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the Kitchen.” Thank you Mr. President.

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