Have you ever made a bad decision in leadership?
Of course, we all have. It is actually part of the way we grow as leaders. I’ve made many bad decisions in my leadership.
Thankfully, the longer I lead, the more I have developed some warning signs I’m about to make another. There are certain clues which help me pinpoint a potential bad move—even before I pull the trigger of decision.
Please understand, these aren’t foolproof. They don’t mean you are definitely making a bad decision. But, they are hints you might, and they are worth considering before you make your next decision—especially major decisions.
Here are seven hints you’re about to make the wrong decision as a leader:
1. The decision makes everyone happy.
Chances are you’re settling for less than best if everyone is happy. The best decisions almost never please everyone. They involve change and sacrifice. Change is uncomfortable for someone—always—and seldom universally accepted.
This doesn’t mean you don’t attempt to bring the most people into agreement with the change. If you don’t, you won’t have followers for long. But, you should base the final decision not as much on what is popular as much as what is right. This requires the hard work of leadership.
2. It’s an easy decision.
Some decisions are. Most aren’t. Especially major decisions. The hard decisions require prayer, wrestling through the options and collaborating with others. Making hard decisions is actually where we need leadership most. If everything is easy—you don’t really need a leader.
3. You are making the decision alone.
Plans fail for the lack of counsel. With many counselors plans succeed (Proverbs 15:22
). I’ve seldom regretted my decision—even when it doesn’t turn out as I might have wished—if I know I have invited others into the decision-making process. There is a certain comfort in shared ownership. This doesn’t mean I don’t have to stand alone at times, but not without first consulting people I trust. (For a great example of this, see how David allowed his men to speak into a decision in 1 Samuel 23:1-5
4. You're going against your closest advisors.
Not only do I need to invite others into the decision-making process—I need to heed the people’s advice I invite. This is another I’ve learned the hard way. It is rare I will make a decision where the group of advisors I have recruited have advised otherwise. In fact, I look for unanimous consensus. Again, as a leader, there have been a few times I had to make decisions no one else could see at the time—but, those were always times I was confident God was calling me to do something. (Such as in the conclusion to the David story I mentioned previously.) Short of this confirmation—I depend on the wisdom of collective voices.
5. You're making the decision too quickly.
Some decisions—especially the major ones—need time to gel in your mind and heart. Most major decisions need a good night's sleep—or several. If you’re being rushed into the decision, you’ll likely make some mistakes. Of course, there are times you have to move swiftly. Whenever possible, though, give the process adequate time.
6. You're making the decision too slowly.
The opposite is true also. When you’ve wrestled with it long enough—and you know the right thing to do—some decisions just need to be made—even without having all the answers. I’ve been guilty of missing opportunities because I got locked in decision paralysis and didn’t make the call I already knew I should make—and, honestly, it’s many times because I know the reaction to the decision will not necessarily be popular.
7. Your gut tells you otherwise.
You have a gut for a reason. Most likely it was developed over years of experience. It’s usually dangerous to ignore it.
Of course, the key is actually being self-aware enough to consider these hints. But, next time you’re about to make a major decision, put your potential actions through this grid. I’m speaking from experience of many bad leadership decisions. It might help you avoid some of my mistakes—and make better ones.