The ability to make sound decisions is what sets the leaders apart from the followers.
One of the primary characteristics of strong leaders lies in their ability to make wise decisions. The greater the leadership position, the more critical it is for leaders to make shrewd and refined judgements, since the higher role not only brings with it more complex challenges, but also a magnified influence of the leaders’ actions that extends across whole organizations.
It serves as a great advantage for organizations to have at their helm leaders who possess the acumen to make sound decisions. Even if an organization were to have vast amounts of resources and highly capable followers at their disposal, its success would still be elusive if its leadership lacks discernment. On the other hand, an organization that is scarce on resources and talents can still be propelled towards success if it is steered by perceptive leaders who can convert setbacks into opportunities.
To have competency in making sound decisions is to possess the wisdom to discern the best option within a given situation.
The ability of leaders to make sound decisions—besides being hinged upon their access to accurate and sufficient information, their level of knowledge and experience relevant to the situation, their ability to accurately pinpoint the underlying problem, as well as their level of professional expertise—is also heavily governed by their personal dispositions.
Drawing from personal observations on the behaviours of experienced leaders over departments and organizations, coupled with the study, analysis and dissection of social situations, I have come to the conclusion that humans generally possess 7 weaknesses in varying degrees—a fact which also holds true for those in leadership positions.
These 7 human weaknesses have the potential to veer decisions away from the intended objective, target and standard, and will subsequently lead to tremendous loss and failure. These 7 weaknesses are as follows:
- Prejudice: To be prejudiced is to allow one’s judgements and decisions to be influenced by personal predisposition, rather than by fair and acute rationale. For instance, to have prejudice against a particular race, religion, sex or geographical group will directly/indirectly cause one’s decision to be inclined towards either the support for or opposition against a particular side of the matter.
For example, the preconception that females are of the weaker sex whose meticulous nature makes them suitable for housekeeping has robbed women off of opportunities in the area of education and profession.
- Bias: To be biased is to allow one’s judgements and decisions to be manipulated by personal inclination, rather than by impartial reasoning. Whether it is rooted in familiarity, indebtedness or feelings of obligation, a biased perception will cause one’s decisions to become misaligned with the intended purpose.
For instance, the relationship between a leader and a subordinate that oversteps professional boundary may serve as a precursor to situations where the leader would be repelled from taking disciplinary action against that particular subordinate when the situation calls for such necessity.
- Emotionally-Governed: To be emotionally-governed is to allow one’s emotion or feelings to override sound logic and reason during the process of decision-making. For instance, decisions founded upon infatuation, hatred, fear, anger, and other positive/negative feelings tend to lack discretion and can potentially lead to catastrophic aftermaths.
An example is when a child’s low grades in school causes the parents to make an anger- based decision to have the child quit school to work instead. Blinded by their emotions, the parents would have failed to uncover the underlying reason behind the child’s low performance, such as disinterest in the subjects taught, conflicts with the teacher, or misalignment between the child’s competency and the subject taught.
- Fallacy: To have fallacy is to allow decisions to be governed by faulty reasoning. Fallacy may manifest itself in various forms, such as circular reasoning, appealing to the masses, slippery slope argument, appealing to authority, as well as argument by repetition, all of which have the potential to cause erroneous decisions that misaligns with the truth.
For instance, there was a particular school that had to deal with the problem of frequent late- arrivals of students during the rainy season. Since the late students would reach school at approximately the same time, the teachers presumed that these students lived within the same vicinity, which happened to be a long distance from school and thus required substantial travelling time. It was therefore decided that the school would commence an hour later than usual. The
decision, however, did not resolve the problem. Upon inquiry, the teachers discovered that these students did not have umbrellas or raincoats, and thus had to wait for the rain to subside before they could journey to school, thereby resulting in their late arrivals. This incident aptly illustrates how a distorted reasoning can lead to false conclusions and misguided decisions.
- Misinterpretation: To make judgement based upon the misinterpretation of a given information, leading to erroneous judgement that is skewed from the actual situation.
For instance, a leader of a particular corporation, having misinterpreted the economy, decided to make a high-risk investment that subsequently resulted in great debt and great economic challenges.
- Egocentricity: To have egocentricity is to allow one’s judgements to be governed by one’s self-importance, rather than by logic and reason. Ego may cloak itself as pride, self-centeredness, condescension, jealousy, begrudgement, conceit, and the lack of regard towards others (Kriengsak Chareonwongsak, 2558), all of which will result in unsound decisions.
For instance, an egocentric leader has the tendency to be infatuated with one’s ideas, narrow- minded, dismissive of different or opposing views, and unreceptive towards correction or advice, all of which will contribute to erroneous decisions and perpetual failures.
- Self-Seeking: To be self-seeking is to make decisions based upon one’s personal gain rather than sound logic and reason. For instance, to make decisions in order to fulfil one’s agenda without considering the welfare of others will ultimately lead to adverse consequences.
For instance, self-seeking national leaders are prone to make decisions with the purpose to either seek personal gain or elude opposition, which eventually leads to corruptions that are detrimental to the society at large.
Leaders of all entities, whether families, organizations, communities, societies, or nations, ought to be mindful of these 7 human weaknesses and ensure impartiality in their judgements in order to make decisions that are prudent, wise and discerning. This is particularly important for leaders who face matters that are complex, pivotal and have extensive influence upon the organization.
To be an exemplary leader, one must overcome these 7 human weaknesses that causes judgements to be skewed by prejudice, bias, emotion, fallacy, misinterpretation, egocentricity, and self-seeking agendas in order to facilitate the creation of sound and discrete decisions.
Kriengsak Chareonwongsak. (2558). อารยอีโก้: บริหารอีโก้ให้เกิดพลังบวก. Bangkok: Success Media.
ISSUE 0126 (June – July 18)
Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s Center of Business and Government.