Great Leaders are Great Decision-Makers

To read this summary in Myanmar language, click here.

Great leaders learn to “balance emotion with reason to make decisions that positively impact themselves, their employees, their customers…and their organizations.” Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business Review in “Great Leaders Are Great Decision-Makers” cites three qualities that leaders must develop in order to make effective decisions:

  • Emotional intelligence;
  • Emotional self-control and decision-making; and,
  • Reigning in emotions for strategic decisions.

[See “Leadership in a crisis” for more on this process.]

Emotional intelligence

It is crucial for leaders to develop the quality of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is “the ability to understand and manage your emotions and those of others.” It is important to recognize that the mood or emotions of the leader often set the “emotional climate in an organization.” Emotional intelligence involves three components:

  1. Self-awareness means being able to accurately assess “your thoughts, feelings, and actions.”
  2. Self-management is the “ability to understand and control your emotions, … and adopt an optimistic outlook.”
  3. Social awareness is like self-awareness, but focused externally. It involves an awareness and understanding of “the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others, as well as how to relate to other people.”
  4. Relationship management involves “qualities such as being influential and inspirational and developing others.”

Emotional self-control and decision making

Self-control is the ability to “recognize …emotions, be influenced by them, but not blinded by them.” Emotional self-control enables leaders to deliberately communicate decisions to others despite intense emotions they may feel.

Author Dr. Larina Kase notes that leaders often have intense emotional reactions like “anxiety, fear, or anger.” Yet, leaders shouldn’t allow those emotions to override their ability to make good decisions.

Reigning in emotions for strategic decisions

When people attempt to push down an emotion and not feel it, unfortunately, this causes the body a lot of effort. The goal “is not to take feelings out of the decision-making process,” but rather to prevent them “from taking over and losing emotional self-control.” Great leaders must learn to regulate “intense emotional reaction” and use “a different part of [the] brain (the prefrontal cortex)” that is responsible for big picture thinking and long-term planning.

Uncertainty – Know when to proceed.

People often analyze situations “from every angle to alleviate the sense of uncertainty.” Unfortunately, the effort and energy that people spend trying to avoid uncertainty is often wasted, because leaders will always need to make decisions in the midst of ambiguity.

Leaders must guard against trying “to find certainty before making decisions.” Once they can learn to “accept the uncertainty rather than try to resolve it, [leaders] can focus [their] limited time, energy, and money on making the best decisions in the face of an uncertain outcome.”

Analysis will always be important and helpful in decision-making. However, leaders must recognize when to take the next step despite not knowing. When leaders find themselves “investing too much time or other resources in the analyses,” it is worthy asking the question whether the uncertainty can truly be resolved. If not, “accept the uncertainty and move on.”

Choices – Limit options.

Some poor leaders believe that “if [they] consider every possible alternative, [they] will have better choices and make the best decision.” This is not true. Studies “show that when there are more than five or six options, people have a more difficult time deciding.” In order to make effective and efficient decisions, limit the proposed options.

Intuition – Slow down and go with instinct.

Excellent leaders with expertise are “able to trust themselves … and not get stuck in the cycle of over-thinking.” This ability to “go with their gut” is the process of relying on intuition.

Author Dr. Kase recommends practices for leaders to develop the skills to listen and intuition. These include reflective, slower, or meditative practices that allow us “to notice ourselves thinking and feeling.”

Decision-making – It takes practice.

It takes practice to become great at making good decisions. Fear often clouds the ability to make decisions due to a fear people have of making the wrong decision. Instead of spending “hours and hours analyzing,” leaders can “accept the level of risk and go for it.”

Practice decision-making with the following process:

  1. Choose whether to take immediate action or collect more information.
  2. Acknowledge and accept emotions that arise, using them as a guide.
  3. Determine how much uncertainty needs to be resolved and recognize uncertainty will still exist.
  4. Allow time and space to access intuition and do not over-think and over-analyze important decisions.
  5. Be proactive and practice making challenging decisions when possible.

To read the full article, click here.

About DeBoer Fellowship
The DeBoer Fellowship develops change leaders across all sectors of Myanmar society. Through a multi-year training class and additional public programs, the DeBoer Fellowship serves Myanmar by helping to grow competent, compassionate, and ethical leaders. For more information about DeBoer Fellowship or to apply for the Fellowship, please visit:

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