There is one tell-tale sign, a dead give away that you’re a weak leader – I can see it a mile off, and so can every one else. What is it? Everyone knows you’re a lousy leader if you can’t make decisions. Sound harsh? Perhaps so, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the truth. Nothing signals leadership trouble more than an executive who can’t make decisions. If you can’t make decisions, you can’t get things done. If you suffer from analysis paralysis, procrastination, timidity, a lack of courage or confidence, being indecisive, or being in over your head, there is trouble looming. Nowhere is there more truth to the old saying that “where there’s smoke there’s fire” than as it applies to leaders who can’t make decisions. In today’s post I’ll discuss the element that separates wannabe leaders from authentic leaders…The ability to take action and make decisions.
The path toward any accomplishment worthy of note begins with the first step. Understanding and implementing the concept of “actionable leadership” is a major key to success in becoming a great CEO. Much has been written about leadership theory, leadership concepts, leadership style, leadership dynamics, what leaders are, or are not, and a plethora of other leadership-centric content. However my question to you is this: What is leadership without action? Theory is fine for the classroom, but in the business world, theory without action is little more than useless rhetoric. Don’t tell me, show me…Don’t talk the talk, but walk the walk. Taking action always begins with one simple act – making a decision.
Do you have great vision? Are you a master of strategy? Do you have boundless energy or mesmerizing charisma? While the aforementioned qualities are certainly admirable, they are only valuable if they influence or create action. Walt Disney, one of the greatest creative talents and true innovators of our time realized the value of action when he said: “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” Let me make this as clear as I can – procrastination is the beginning of walking the plank. When you get to the end of the plank things don’t get better do they? You may have bought yourself a bit of time, but the decision is now being made for you, and the outcome isn’t as hoped for.
I’m always amazed at the number of senior executives who really struggle with even simple decisions…This next comment might hit a bit too close to home for some of you, but I’m hoping it may help bring you back to reality. As a C-level executive you get paid to make decisions and to take action. If you’re too busy to do either of those things YOU have a BIG problem. When you reach the C-Suite level your calendar is always full and there are constant demands on your time – this is not going to change, things are not going to somehow be better next week, next month, next quarter, or next year. Procrastinating doesn’t make things better it makes things worse. I’m not advocating that you make imprudent decisions or that you don’t seek counsel in making complex decisions, but I am advocating that you stop stalling and actually make the decision. The only thing that gives you more control over your time is to make good decisions and to teach those whom you lead to do the same.
A close examination of truly great leaders will reveal that, to the one, they all have a strong bias toward action. It was Andy Grove the former Chairman and CEO of Intel and Time Magazine’s 1997 Man of the Year who said “You have to take action; you can’t hesitate or hedge your bets. Anything less will condemn your efforts to failure.” If you can’t take action, if you can’t make the tough decision, and if you can’t instill a bias toward action in your peers and subordinates, then you don’t belong in a leadership position.
A critical part of the talent management life-cycle is leadership development. If your mentoring and training programs don’t focus on the development of action oriented leaders then you are simply breeding obsolescence, and ultimately… failure. When an organization stops learning they begin dying. It is more critical than ever in today’ economic climate that leadership development be a top priority for CEOs who want to build a thriving enterprise moving forward.
Remember that leadership is not a spectator sport. Great leaders will do anything to get off the bench and into the game. If your company has passive and/or timid leadership you will face serious problems in sustaining your competitive advantage. Furthermore, if your company isn’t leveraging action learning to develop leaders, fuel innovation, foster collaboration, and catalyze growth then you are missing a substantial opportunity. My message is a simple one…stop pondering and pontificating make a decision and take action.
Mike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of “Leadership Matters…The CEO Survival Manual“, and Managing Director of N2Growth.