How to Decide Better? An Essential Leadership Trait

Leadership is about a few important things out of which perhaps the most important thing is how we decide. The quality of our leadership depends on the quality of our decisions. We can improve our decision-making if we are conscious of the factors that influence our decisions and hone our ability to work on those factors. This article builds on the previous article on leadership delta . In this article, I share my views on decision-making and how we can decide better.

We are deciding almost all the time. What to eat, what to read, how to spend our free time, whom to talk to, which career to choose, where to live, whom to marry, how to solve a problem, and so on. We are faced with choices and we must decide before the choices decide for themselves. The Sanskrit word for this ability to decide is vivek, the power of discrimination between right and wrong. Here, right and wrong is contextual in what leads me to fulfill my dharma. What is real and what is unreal? This state of wisdom is the hallmark of good leadership. It requires one to know their purpose (swadharma) and which decisions will help fulfill that purpose. If we know our purpose, even broadly, or at least know our principles, we can train our decision-making to be conducive to that purpose. For example, to maintain good health and well-being, we have to decide on our food habits. Now, multiple factors influence our decision-making. Let us look at those factors.

  1. Experience: Many of our decisions are driven by our past experiences. If we have coffee late in the night and can’t fall asleep, it influences our decision to have coffee the next time.
  2. Intellect: We analyze the options and make a choice based on whatever logically seems most appropriate to us. For example, in business decisions or even day-to-day management of our personal finance, we decide based on analysis and logic. 
  3. Intuition: Often, our decisions are instinctive. They are based on intuition. Malcolm Galdwell’s book ‘Blink’ is an interesting work in this kind of thinking and decision-making.
  4. Advice: Seeking the opinion of others who we feel are giving us good advice is another common ingredient that goes into decision-making. From simple decisions like what to wear to a party to complex decisions about how to run a country, advice is an important factor.
  5. Resources: Decisions are also based on the constraint of resources. We may want to work in a certain way but our resources do not allow us to do it. Similarly, an excess of resources can lead us to a decision that we would otherwise not have taken. Bad investments can be a result of this.

In our course of life, we subconsciously form decision-making patterns by applying all these factors. To accelerate our journey towards better decision-making, we have to consciously put ourselves into situations where we have to decide or at least think-about decision-making. This is where leadership education becomes useful. In my class on leadership lessons, I use history as a method of thinking about decisions that other people took. When we step into complex situations that someone else went through in their leadership journey and see how they decided and towards what outcomes, we create our own decision-making patterns. It is like a simulation to practice our vivek.

This is useful because in our own life, especially when we are young, we may not get a chance to deal with complex questions. Yet, we have to prepare for those questions if we want to get into leadership roles. These simulations and role-play develop our comfort with complexity, create thinking patterns, allow us to become conscious about factors that affect our choices, and finally lead to better decision-making. This is the essential trait that learners need to develop today to lead tomorrow.

I hope that such pedagogies and education in leadership in eventually help in increasing the gross leadership product of our society, enabling us to build the nation further.

– Sahil Aggarwal, CEO, Rishihood University

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