Executive Decision vs. Group Decision

Ask Mary ~

When should a leader make unilateral/executive decisions in the interest of efficiency vs. using a group decision-making process with authentic buy-in and respected, credible results?

Answer ~

The only way to answer this briefly is to make a broad assertion, so here it is: Good judgment is the sine qua non of good leadership. And deciding when to make an executive decision vs. when to initiate a group decision-making process is a perfect example. This also illustrates the point that leadership is situational; there are no formulas. A leader must consider the circumstances, timing, and the decision-process alternatives in every situation, weigh the costs vs. benefits of the various alternatives, make a decision on how to make the decision, and then take action. That’s where the good judgment comes in. Both types of decision-making are useful and appropriate methodologies. (By the way, these are not the only techniques for making decisions, but they do represent two very different approaches.) Sometimes a leader has days, weeks, or even months to make a decision, sometimes only minutes or possibly just seconds. Some issues are more complex and important than others, and worth a greater investment of resources. Some issues are better served by a group process; some aren’t. The key is knowing when to use which decision-making method.

Food for Thought ~

“Wisdom is knowing what to do next. Skill is knowing how to do it. Virtue is doing it.”
David Starr Jordan (1851 – 1931)
Educator, Ichthyologist, Peace Activist, President of Indiana University and the first President of Stanford University