Leadership development and learning to decide quickly

June 21, 2017 by Wally Bock

There’s a great post on Wharton’s site titled “Myth vs. Reality: Four Behaviors That Define Successful Leaders.” Here’s the teaser copy.

“What makes some CEOs successful while others crash and burn? The stereotypical view — often promoted in magazines and on television — is that these leaders are charismatic, armed with an Ivy League degree and larger than life. That impression is both superficial and wrong, according to Elena Lytkina Botelho and Kim Powell, consultants at ghSMART, a Chicago-based management consulting firm. After a 10-year study, Botelho, Powell, and their colleagues found that successful CEOs have four behavioral attributes that are often overlooked because they are not particularly glamorous. These CEOs make decisions quickly; they are relentlessly reliable; they excel at managing relationships; and they adapt swiftly to changing circumstances.”

If you’re interested in leadership development, you should read the entire article. Be warned, though, what the folks at ghSMART are describing are not behaviors, they’re skills. They describe one this way: “it’s actually more frequent that CEOs stand out for the speed of their decision making, not simply the quality.”

So, the behavior is making decisions. The skill is making good decisions quickly. It turns out that the military has a good model for how to develop that skill, which is critical to combat leadership. The military does two things which very few leadership development programs do.

Leadership development: teaching decision making the military way

The military teaches simple decision-making practices that can be used over and over in many different situations. Here’s a link to a simple pre-decision checklist.

Leadership development: learn decision making by making decisions

Military leaders learn to make good decisions by making lots of decisions and getting feedback. Some of that happens in the classroom. The rest happens in the course of work.

To make this work in your company, you need senior leaders who understand that they must allow junior leaders to decide and learn from the consequences. Many times, especially early in an aspiring leader’s career, there will be lots of mistakes.

Here’s the bottom line. If you want to develop leaders who make good decisions quickly. Teach them simple methods, the let them make lots of decisions. Make each one a learning and habit-development experience.

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

Posted in Leadership Development

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