Leaders make Decisions!  In a world of quantum communication and overloaded information it should be no revelation when confronted by every man’s entitlement to a vocalized opinion.  In our era, society has imparted uncontested prominence to a person’s opinion.  Whether a derivative of careful thought, precise data, or notorious feelings – the right to “my opinion” is firmly entrenched in our culture’s fairness equation. “Well, that’s my opinion”, has become the justifiable explanation of any inexplicable reasoning or concept.  The resulting implication from these free-wielding opines is a stolen momentary sense of Authority which charms even the weakest of characters.  Observe a heated debate regarding a controversial topic and take notice of the abundant expertise of unsubstantiated solutions filling the room.  The empowerment of an authority capturing thought is an addictive substance for any conference table groupie.  But observe how Authority runs and hides when time is finished and a Decision is required.  A silence falls on the repartee,

Making Decisions

distraction lurks, shifting begins and everyone looks to the Leader … to make the Decision!

Opinions are weightless luxuries of shiftless minds.  They can be put forth with various methodologies, heavy-handed or sneakily, but in the final analysis they can effortlessly be discarded and abandoned.  The Authority of ideas and feelings, however great or passionate, is a passing plaything.  Only the Decision produces a “final” choice; a determined course of action to be embarked upon.  Making Decisions has little to do with captured “Authority” and everything to do with accepting “Responsibility”.  And Responsibility carries weight … the weight of consequence!



Good Leaders make Good Decisions.  Or is it the reverse? Regardless, when opinions are at odds it is a Leader’s responsibility to step up and choose one course of action for success.  The right “Decision” is the keystone towards advancement of goals and winning teams.  So, how do Leaders make decisions?

Good decision creation comes from a variety of techniques.  Leaders learn to blend contributing factors into overall analysis to determine the best possibilities for a prosperous consequence while limiting the risk of unintended surprises.  Whether decisions are made from Rational Analysis, Intuition, Advice, Avoidance, or Inspiration, a decision maker must be capable of sorting through the infiltrating influences to gain clarity of the dilemma.

At the aggressive age of 30, I was challenged with a philosophical disputation which forever changed my outlook on the decision making process.  As Vice President of Operations, I had become responsible for a handful of recently acquired unhealthy businesses with the goal of converting them to profitable, well run, prosperous, “Company Store” branches.  After months of “road work” the results were beginning to show.  I instituted vigorous tough change initiatives to progress performance and with a “take no prisoners” attitude began to see measurable improvements throughout the system.  Development was increasingly taking hold and I had every reason to believe we were on the right path.

About then, a great mentor of mine, Mike White (owner of the company) decided to make a road trip with me.  The establishment of direct distribution was one of his personal pet projects and he was very passionate, supportive, and protective about the program’s triumph.  We traveled to several of the branch offices and conducted multiple meetings.  Although the sales and productivity gains were very evident, Mike detected the grind our “changes” had put the employees through.  The contentious feedback from employees was not in-sync with the “on paper” results.  On our last leg back home, at 35,000 feet, Mike downloaded me with his thoughts.  Although he was proud of the progress made, he questioned if we could accomplish our goals without the workforce being more positive about the changes.  Quickly and adeptly I pulled my charts from the briefcase and began presenting my case to regain the affirmative position.  Not only had productivity, consistency and growth all improved, we also had been able to increase compensation and working conditions for many of the employees.  “Mike,” I petitioned, “Look at the facts, they are wrong.”  As I began to rant about their resistance to change, Mike stopped me cold with the words that would puzzle me for years. He said, “John, their Perception is their Reality.  And your job is to change their perception, not argue about it.”

Disputing facts and data with personal feelings and perceptions was a difficult pill for me to swallow.  I may have been right, but I had to accept that it did not matter if perception was against me.  Over the next few years, I matured as a Leader and the wisdom of Mike’s words set into my core and became a part of my reality.  With his constant guidance, he taught me to realize it takes more than facts and figures to make good decisions.  He helped me understand good decisions are based in the capacity to evaluate and mobilize people into the action we envisioned.  Realizing the vital importance of other people’s perceptions instead of my contrived reality was one tough lesson to absorb, but it opened a world of new insights and possibilities.

People tend to believe what they experience

And they tend to experience what they believe

As a Leader you need to understand the importance of the hard data.  But good decisions are grounded in the “perceived” reality of any given situation.  And although one can logically argue the premise of “Perception is Reality”, you cannot dismiss it.  Whether it is your employees, your boss, or your customers, you cannot escape the consequence of how they “perceive” your thoughts, actions, and contributions.

Through the years of struggling with this enigmatic question I came to appreciate the difference between Facts and Truths and the quandary between Perception and Reality.

  • Facts – A fact is an elementary principle which is indisputable by a personal belief and remains unchanged throughout time.  Example: 2+2=4 is a fact.
  • Truths – Something is thought to be a Truth when two or more people agree on the interpretation of an idea or event.  Truth is subjective, requiring a point of view.  It is a “consensus reality”.  Example: Those believing in God share a truth which the Atheist does not.
  • Perception – One’s knowledge and interpretation of past experiences.  These experiences form preconceived concepts through which new information is viewed, thus creating a personal reality.  Example: Someone perceives the world to be unfair.
  • Reality – Reality is the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or may be thought to be. Example: ? no one really knows.

Your team will follow you only if they believe your decision making talent is sound and verified.  Your ability to connect to them and to the realm where your business lives is of paramount importance.  Resilient decisions are conceived from understanding the entirety of the circumstance.  It would be a simple feat to feed data to a computer, add a few variables, and have it produce the best probable outcome.  But we know that isn’t enough.  Even with its data crushing dominance, no one is going to walk into battle based on a computer program.  Your team has instincts and their own perceptions.  And yes, they have opinions about whether you “get it” or “haven’t a clue”.  The Facts, Truths, Perceptions and Reality must all be considered in your deliberations if you expect conscientious action and lasting results.

The Wisdom of Decision Making


Structured learning and practice to assist you in making better decisions does not exist.  You cannot learn about people and their proclivities from a book.  But your awareness and curiosity into the human condition will accelerate your learning curve.  You must be smart to get ahead, but a true Leader seizes a much more valuable instrument with his “people” knowledge, experience, and judgment.  He cumulates the profoundness of Wisdom.

Wisdom is a deep understanding and realizing of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to choose or act to consistently produce the optimum results with a minimum of time and energy. It is the ability to optimally (effectively and efficiently) apply perceptions and knowledge and so produce the desired results. Wisdom is also the comprehension of what is true or right coupled with optimum judgment as to action.   (Definition from Wikipedia)

With Intelligence you will be noticed, but the accumulation and manifestation of Wisdom will set you apart and earn the respect of others.  A Street Smart Leader gets out of the way of his own reality and focuses on the soft elements and perceptions of the situation or opportunity.  Great Leaders are the difference between good opinions and good Decisions.  They crave the responsibility that comes with “making the call” and the opportunity to put themselves “on the line” to grab the prize.  Good Decisions do make Good Leaders, so choose yours wisely.  20 years ago, Mike White put me on a path leading to Wisdom and although its destination continues to elude me, the journey has provided a wealth of knowledge and understanding with which to grow as a Leader.