Leadership Tactics: How Real Leaders Make Real Decisions

Making effective and reliable decisions is a major responsibility for the leaders of any organization. For fire service leaders, this responsibility can affect not only important administrative issues, but it can impact firefighting tactics and life-and-death situations. Your goal here is not to...


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Making effective and reliable decisions is a major responsibility for the leaders of any organization. For fire service leaders, this responsibility can affect not only important administrative issues, but it can impact firefighting tactics and life-and-death situations.

Your goal here is not to learn to make one or two good decisions, but to become a leader who consistently makes the right call. So you need a process that you can rely on to bring you to the optimal decision, again and again, no matter what the circumstances. In this article we’re going to explore in detail the phases of this process. It begins with gathering information about the kind of decision you’re faced with, then defining what the decision needs to accomplish and finally making sure the decision actually happens.

But before we dive in, let’s step back and think about the kind of decisions you should be focusing on. Too many leaders, particularly those with micromanaging tendencies, feel compelled to make every possible decision, large and small, that falls within their authority. While this may make them feel valiant and indispensable, the fact is they’re not only killing morale by making their people feel useless and inadequate, they’re also shortchanging themselves. The really important decisions get neglected while these leaders squander their attention on a thousand minor problems.

Effective leaders don’t make a truckload of decisions; instead, they focus on the few that make a difference. So here’s a simple test: if a decision can be made by someone beneath you, then that person should make it.

The following decision-making process is very flexible; it can be scaled up or down to fit just about any situation. It’s as effective for unique problems as it is for generic ones. Also, with only four steps, it’s incredibly simple to learn. This makes it the perfect thing for you to teach to your people, not only so they can use it in their own work, but also because it allows you to establish a common decision-making language. Study, remember and practice this process, and you’ll find that any problem, no matter how thorny, can be overcome using this same four-step prescription: Observe, Orient, Decide and Act.

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