Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA
Why are leaders hesitant to do this?
Leaders who need to be loved have a terrible time making unpopular decisions. They waste enormous time and energy explaining, pleading and postponing important decisions, pointlessly longing for consensus, approval and understanding. Their unwillingness to act in spite of others’ disapproval paralyzes them.
What is the case for doing it anyway?
To lead successfully, you must live and prosper in the gray zone between the extremes of universal love and hate. You must listen carefully, weigh the pros and cons dispassionately, make the case as best you can and then decide. You will often not be able to publicly reveal the facts behind your decisions. And ignorant people are especially opinionated. You won’t enjoy taking heat for your decisions, but you will understand this is the price successful leaders pay.
How can you do it?
Announce that you are going to make a decision. This signals everyone that the painful uncertainty will not last forever. People don’t like change; they hate uncertainty even more.
State the obvious. If you can’t reveal confidential information, say that. Admit that everyone will not be pleased with the outcome while reminding your stakeholders that when a tough call must be made, someone must make it.
Ask for understanding. Reasonable people will readily admit they may not know all the facts and that their perceptions may be mistaken. If you develop a reputation for deciding deliberately and fairly, most people will cut you some slack even when they strongly disagree with your decision.
What practical strategies have helped you make difficult decisions in spite of others’ misperceptions?