Who decides?

indecisionIt depends! Not the most satisfying answer but likely the most accurate. While it is true that the “buck stops with you” and leaders are accountable for decisions being made, who actually needs to make the decision is not always as clear.

In our three-day leadership development program we have defined six different decision-making styles that are found in higher education. Each style is defined by “who” makes the final decision. Effective leaders recognize that no single style works best and it is important to match the decision style with the situation.

  1. Executive: the leader makes the decision on their own using only their own judgement and information.
  2. Consultative: the leader consults with others, asks for input and then makes the final decision themselves.
  3. Expert: the leader delegates the final decision to an expert.
  4. Majority rules: the leader delegates the final decision to a majority vote.
  5. Participative: the leader delegates the final decision to a subgroup or representative team.
  6. Consensus: the final decision is only made through a process that leads to consensus among all participants.

Each style has its own benefits and drawbacks based on quality of information available, urgency and consequences of the decisions, level of commitment needed, trust among team members and the leader, complexity of the issue, and history of previous decisions.

After selecting the best style for the situation a crucial insight shared by leaders in our program is the importance of clearly communicating which style you are using. If the people on your team do not know who is actually making the decision or how their ideas are being used you can lose their trust or commitment to the final decision.

We all have a decision style we are most comfortable using, yet limiting ourselves to only one can limit the effectiveness of our decisions and the engagement of our teams.

How clear are you when decisions are made?

Todd Thorsgaard


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