Wednesday, February 27, 2008


In one of yesterday's posts, I shared with you 6 puzzles of life by Coach John Wooden. One of those puzzles was on being slow to make a decision. Indecisiveness puts leadership in positions of compromise or, even worse, causes those that are following to question the leader's ability to make decisions.

I received an email from a colleague that tells the story of Winston Churchill, one of the preeminent leaders of the 20th century. Churchill was not known has a vague or indecisive leader. However, during the defense of the Island of Crete, Churchill could not make up his mind on his field commander General Archibald Wavell, a traditionalist who lacked creativity and imagination. This lack of ingenuity was taken advantage of by the German army as they continued to invade the island. Desperate times called for desperate measures which Wavell failed to accomplish. According to British military records, at the height of frustration, Sir Alan Brooke, Churchill's chief of staff, challenged the Prime Minister by exclaiming, "Winston, either back him or sack him!"

This air of uncertainty is filling most of today's businesses and organizations. Middle-managers put in impossible situations with feelings that they are expendable. Very little communication, little to no direction and goals that are impossible to reach causes frustration in the ranks and upper management looking indecisive.

As a leader what can be done to alleviate these feelings from within the ranks? My colleague suggests, and I agree with, that you need to step back and take a look at your leaders - are they confident in the organization's confidence? Can you bring them in the decision-making process? Are they free to make a mistake and learn from that mistake without the feeling that their position is in jeopardy? Do they have ownership of their position?

As leaders we need to better understand the value our "field leadership" brings to our organizations. We need to do a better job creating an environment making decision that our leaders can believe in and take to the field - we cannot afford to lose our human capital because of our inability to make the right decisions and place people in the areas where they will excel.

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