Leadership: Decision-Making & Ambiguity

by Administrator 07.Oct.2013 13:27:00

"Without contraries there is no progression" - William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven & Hell

Science VS Creativity … The Known VS the Unknown

That a leader is required to make impactful decisions is a no brainer!

In our Leadership Program interaction though, we see that leaders so often seem to strive for absolute choices that will have little or no negative fallout. While this is a noble goal, we have seen that the tendency morphs at times into risk avoidance and flat-line decision-making that belie true leadership.
How often do we look to laws, regulations and precedent to achieve a safe result? By doing so, are we not negating the inevitable ambiguity or existence of contradiction that defines our human nature? 

Subjective interpretation against objective standards/custom is an integral part of every human choice. Consider our frustration if told a motor vehicle problem doesn’t exist because the diagnostic apparatus comes back fault free… Similarly a medical professional who informs us we are not ill because the tests come back negative? Do we not then naturally demand that the expert spend more time investigating our problem?

Imagine for example a police officer, judge or jury panel that adheres to the narrow right/wrong objective limits of the law. Zero Tolerance laws are particularly insidious in this regard. In the corporate world, how often do we accuse those who grapple with issues, as ‘undecided’, ‘lacking in focus’ and even ‘negative’… just because they hold up the process of making of easy/blame free decisions? The financial collapse of 2008, brought on by the sub-prime mortgage saga, illustrates the danger of making choices that seem safe because that is what current custom (‘everyone else is doing it!’) dictates! How often to we dismiss a new idea as ‘out there’ just because it does not carry a pre-dated stamp of approval?

With the rapid advance of science/technology we have another excuse: Have we not relegated decision making to technology? Consider Behavioral Profiling as one such example. It seems we consider a computer program to be infallible – forgetting that humans have designed amazing tools ('extending rather than replacing human capacity' - Marshall McCluhan) that, by and large, only operate within known parameters. People change ... and behave differently depending on circumstance and situations. Do any of us really know how we, or others, would respond/react/behave given a particular set of circumstances? 

Can we prevent mistakes, failure, even disaster by pretending to erase the ever present realm of the unknown, the inexplicable … and the resulting uncertainty… however unpalatable it might be? Are we really certain that science can solve any problem that might collectively befall us?  

The Harding Leadership Model asks that a leader look carefully at each situation encountered on its own merit! This ability includes the capacity to agonize, to ask, to discuss, to listen, to research and to bravely stand or fall by choices made. This ability to balance the subjective with the objective, at any point in time, underpins the value of a true leader!

To Ponder – The wisdom of Lao-tzu, a Chinese mystic, written 2500 years ago:

“People through finding something beautiful
Think something else unbeautiful
Through finding one man fit
Judge another unfit.
Life and death though stemming from each other,
Seem to conflict as stages of change,
Difficult and easy as phases of achievement,
Long and short as measures of contrast,
High and low as degrees of relation;
But since the varying of tones gives music to a voice
And what is the was of shall be,
The sanest man
Sets up no deed,
Lays down no law
Takes everything that happens as it comes…”


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