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Unfortunately, leadership is not all about influence, perks, and big offices.  There is a reason that leaders are paid the big bucks, and that is not simply to lunch on the corporate account and tell others what to do.  Instead, leaders have significant responsibilities and are often accountable for substantial operational, technology, budget, and personnel decisions.

As you can imagine, these decisions aren’t typically easy.  More likely, they are complicated and multi-faceted with both short and long term implications.  Definitely not for the faint of heart.  So how do strong leaders make tough decisions?

Solicit Perspectives of Trusted Advisors

When possible, it is always better to obtain the opinions of trusted colleagues before making a difficult decision.  Even more important than their opinions are the reasons why they feel that way.  Take the time to understand why your trusted advisors maintain certain perspectives as you drive towards making a decision that will be the most beneficial while addressing legitimate concerns.

Take the Time to Leverage All Available Information

Often, leaders are asked to make immediate decisions.  But is this always necessary?  Determine if an immediate decision is indeed warranted, or if you can have some additional time to gather as much information as possible.  If an instant decision is necessary, utilize every piece of information you can gather in that moment to forecast short and long term results and make a quick decision.  If you have some time, pull together as much information as possible to decide on the right course of action that will yield positive results, today and further down the road.

Take Responsibility for Results

As a leader, you are ultimately responsible for the decisions you make.  No decision is going to please everyone, and leaders must understand and tolerate that.  Ensure that you hold yourself accountable.  If something goes wrong, don’t succumb to the temptation to blame someone else or the information that you received.  Instead, stand firm and provide substantiation for why you made the decision you did, while remaining open to feedback and continuously learning from that feedback to make better decisions in the future.

Follow Principles

When making critical decisions, it is important to ensure that they align with your organization’s overall principles.  Many times the easy decision is not the right one when you take a hard look at your company’s values and direction.  Be willing to look beyond popular opinion to make a principled decision that ultimately benefits the organization as a whole, versus a particular individual or group of individuals.

Beyond these tips, it is important to always understand why you are making the decision and if you are the right individual to be making the decision in the first place.  Leaders demonstrate tolerance for mistakes, and you must be comfortable in the understanding that you will make mistakes and some of your decisions may not be the best.  Embracing this and using it as an opportunity to demonstrate to your teams how to rectify such a situation is critical to your own and your employees’ overall development.