The Sixth Side of Leadership is Boldness

This week, as I continue with the Seven Sides of Leadership as explained in Pat Williams’ book Leadership Excellence the sixth side of leadership, is Boldness.

Bold leaders make bold decisions. On every team, in every organization, somebody has to make the decisions. That’s what leadership is all about. The role of the leader is to gather as much information as practicable, consult with key people, and reflect on all the options, upsides, downsides, risks, and rewards … Then decide.

Once the leader decides, he or she does not look back, does not agonize, and does not second-guess. Having decided, the leaders now does whatever it takes to make that decision work for the good of the organization.

Having being asked whether he had any regrets about any of the major decisions he had to make as President, Harry Truman replied, “I have none. Whenever I felt a mistake had been made, I always tried to remedy the mistake by making another decision. Everybody makes mistakes and the important thing is to correct them, once they are discovered. Sometimes you have a choice of evils, in which case you try to take the course that is likely to bring the least harm. I am not one who believes it does any good to cry over past mistakes. You have got to keep looking ahead and going straight ahead all the time, making decisions and correcting the situation as you go along.”

Great leaders don’t waste time and don’t get bogged down by “paralysis of analysis.” Through thoughtful analysis is a necessary component of decision-making, too much study can quickly become a substitute for decision-making.

In their book, ‘Buck Up, Suck Up, and Come Back When You Foul Up,’ former presidential aides James Carver and Paul Begala warn:

“When analysis leads only to the conclusion that you need further analysis, look out. You’re heading toward paralysis mode. Harry Truman understood that. He once said he was looking for a one-armed adviser, because he was sick of Washington sharpies telling him, “On the other hand …”

Do you want to be the smartest person at the big meeting? Be the first person to demand that your organization move quickly. Acknowledge the risks and costs of doing something, and then outline the myriad risks and manifest costs of doing nothing.

In recent years, we have seen a move away from traditional organizational hierarchies toward more flat, horizontal, or decentralized organizations – especially in smaller companies or small divisions within larger organizations. The rationale for a flatter organizational structure is to empower people, involve more people in the decision-making process, and take advantage of the initiative and creativity of everyone in the company. I support and applaud that.

But regardless of how flat your organization is, you still need bold, courageous leadership. You need leaders to cast and communicate the vision, and to keep the entire organization focused on that vision. You need a few bold leaders who will set the direction for the organization and hold people accountable for moving the organization in that direction.