How to Avoid Selfish Decisions
Written by Ron Hunter on September 12, 2012
How many decisions do you make that impact yourself? I am not suggesting a TV schedule, what shirt to wear, what book to read, or what route you will take to work tomorrow. I am talking about decisions you make as a leader.
I guess it would be helpful to discuss types of decisions. Heifetz (1994) lists four types of decisions leaders make. Most decisions occur from an autocratic, consultative, participatory, or consensual style of leadership. While a person defaults to one these styles, a leader may also move these styles depending on the situation. For example, during a catastrophe, no wants a leader checking a consensus to determine evacuation plans. The deployment of an autocratic style fits that circumstance. Any other style may prevent followers from trusting you in the moment. However, most sustaining and growing organizations today left the everyday typical autocratic style back in the 70’s where it should probably stay.
If more organizations encourage input from their employees and allow appropriate decision making to occur at every level of the organization chart, ethical questions do arise. How do I know the team working on a problem will not decide what is best for the team, all employees, or worse just benefit themselves? While every person should have an inherit moral compass, I have found blind spots subconsciously creep in to all of us.
When working through decisions that have direct affects and effects on the decision makers, do the following. If potential benefits only impact one of the people on the team, committee, council, or board, then acknowledge the conflict of interest and ask the person to sit this one out. If this person has significant expertise, then she or he can offer it and then leave the room while others deliberate. Many times leaders cannot avoid making decisions that do not include themselves. If this affects multiple people, like the leaders, then acknowledge the conflict of interest and keep asking these questions during the discussion.
-Does this decision help the people in our organization?
-Does this decision help the organization?
-Does this decision help the people the organization serves?
-Can you defend the merits of this decision for all three groups (above) involved?
-Does this decision provide any unfair advantage to any group or person?
-Does this decision ultimately give the organization credibility and health?
Following these simple guidelines will prevent someone from accusing your leadership team of making selfish decisions. Remember even when you act ethically people may still wonder, but make sure those closest to you are holding you accountable regardless of your leadership style.
Posted in: Leadership