On Leadership: Light Switch or Filter?

Part of an ongoing and irregular series of articles on leadership.

As a leader are you a filter or a lightswitch?

By this I mean how does your decision making process work? Is it even a process at all? Are you a filter? Do you listen to suggestions from varying sources, weigh the options, collaborate and move forward with the decision – sometimes even decisions you may not agree with?

Or are you a binary decision maker? Yes. No. No. No. Yes. Yes. No. Yes. Yes. etc?

There are overlaps between these styles. Binary decision makes have filters and filter decision makers are often driven by circumstance to quick binary decicions – but we have tendancies toward one or the other.

Now I should say up front that context and circumstance contribute significantly to the decision making process a leader makes. A lieutenant in the midst of a combat firefight may not be able to take time to filter decisions through a complex matrix that involves collaboration with peers, seniors and those under her or his supervision – they may need to decide on instinct and hope for the best no matter which style they tend toward.

I am more of a collaborative filter decision maker. Sometimes I allow things to happen that I personally would not choose. As leaders we do this for various reasons not the least of which is always remembering we may be wrong. Other reasons could include the reality that the value of what can be learned by going a certain way outweighs the detriment of failure in the moment.

Regardless of your style you should know what it is. There are places where a binary yes/no approach does not work. Larger, team structured organizations for instance may not thrive under this form of leadership and thus the whole organization suffers.

Learn the styles, learn where you learn and most important;y, learn when you may need to use the other style and why it is valuable to do so from time to time.


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