The One Essential Habit of Every Effective Leader

This is a guest post by Jeff Goins. Jeff is a writer who works for Adventures in Missions. You can follow him on Twitter and download a free copy of his eBook The Writer's Manifesto. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

I once heard Dave Ramsey share the secret to his effective leadership and decision-making strategy: ”I make a decision, and if it's the wrong one, I make another one.”

Standing Man with Two Choices - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/eyetoeyePIX, Image #17906987

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/eyetoeyePIX

Here was my thought process in reaction to that statement:

  • That's ludicrous.
  • That's reckless. 
  • That's… genius.

At the time, Dave knew something about leadership that I was just beginning to learn: Great leaders are effective, not because they know all the answers, but because they have the tenacity to act. Leadership, as it turns out, is really the act of making intentional decisions and accepting responsibility for them.
I always loved that biblical story of Joshua, who stood before his fellow countrymen at a crossroads in his nation's history and admonished them to “choose this day whom you will serve…” Joshua knew, as all great leaders know, that life is about intentional choices. And the failure to make a decision is, in fact, a choice in itself.

The word decide in its Latin root literally means, “to cut off.” In our culture, nobody wants to cut off anything. We are rife with procrastination. In fact, in some cases we reward it. While there's nothing wrong with 80 percent off a plane ticket to Cabo San Lucas, this is telling of how we make (or rather, don't make) decisions.

Many organizations have a decision-deficiency syndrome. We have leaders who hesitate. They waffle and wait, hoping for a better opportunity. Let's be honest: you and I do this, as well. And it's killing our leadership.

If you want to be a better leader, resolve to be a better decision-maker. It will revolutionize your organization, inspire your team, and liberate you from the constant worry of the possibility of a better opportunity coming along.

Here are three scenarios in which you should make a decision right now:

  1. You don't need more information. You have everything you need to know to make the right decision. Sure, more information could make itself available if you wait, but if you're honest, you don't need it. You have the essentials, and nothing monumental would change that.
  2. More information won't come. Sometimes, you're just stalling. In fact, most of the time, this is the case. We're afraid of consequences, criticism, or failure. So we hesitate. But really, this is just wasting time.
  3. Something will suffer if you wait. More information might present itself, but the cost of waiting is greater than the cost of acting now and paying the consequences later. Your hesitation may be distracting you or keeping you from other work or simply frustrating your colleagues.

You can't do this with every decision, but you can probably do it with more than you realize. Most indecisiveness comes from fear. It's time to move beyond that and become the leader you were meant to be.

Something shifts in your paradigm when you resolve to be more decisive. You stop letting yourself be ruled by anxiety and apprehension. You become bolder and more confident. At first, it may seem scary, but this is the key to being a leader worth following.

Sure, you will occasionally make the wrong choice, but you will never have to be afraid again. You will never catch yourself, waiting for more information that isn't necessary to making a difference today. 

It's time to decide.

Question: What's one decision you've been putting off? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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