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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Gorman

Stand Alone but Don't Go Alone

I can clearly remember the first time I needed to make a significant decision on my own. At the time I was serving as a police officer. One night at around 2:00 AM I pulled over a car and I quickly learned that the person in the car was wanted for murder and was extremely dangerous. Without making this story too long it also became apparent I was not going to have back-up. Not good.

There are police officers who would argue I should not try to arrest him on my own. However, no one was coming and I needed to make a decision. I decided to arrest him after several tense minutes and did so without serious incident. To say

I was scared would be an understatement but I did arrest him and recovered a handgun from the car.

I needed to take a stand and act alone.

There will be a day when you do as well.


Leadership and Isolation

Leadership can be isolating. This is especially true in moments of decision-making and the final decision will rest on the leader’s shoulders. Being alone does allow for reflection which may help bring clarity. On the other hand, it elevates stress levels and exhaustion if a person is not mindful of their well being.


Do Not Go Alone – If You Do Not Need To

We all need to remember that we are not invincible. Each one of use needs support and frequently that can come from your leadership team. Team members who are allowed to advocate for their ideas will create a more collaborative and supportive environment.  This not only lightens the load of the leader it also allows for different perspectives which informs the ultimate decision maker.

A goal such as this does not happen overnight – it takes time and effort. Five practical steps to creating an environment that fosters good shared decision-making include:

1.    Lead by Example: The sharing of information, and expressing thoughts and feelings can create an environment where others feel comfortable doing the same.

2.    Promote Active Listening: Encourage team members to listen to one another without interruption and to validate the input of others.

3.    Regular Feedback: Opportunities should be provided for regular and stand-up meetings. The key is regular and recurring contact with one another.

4.    Solve Problems ASAP: When issues arise they need to be solved lest the unity of your team be disrupted.

5.    Provide Training and Exercises: Training and exercises such as the DISC method can be invaluable in establishing a team. Good teams think better and make better decisions.

Making impactful group decisions takes the pressure off leaders since they are not in a position where they have to make decisions on their own. Of course, the leader has the final say but they will have taken time to gather important input.

Going Alone

Even if you have a good decision-making body of senior staff or other advisers there are times when you must go alone. This may be because you do not have an advisory body for that particular issue, the existing decision-making body is split on a decision, or they are unified in their recommendation but you have decided to reject their advice. When making decisions in this way as a leader:

1.    Be Self-Aware: do not become defensive around others when announcing that you are making a decision that may be unpopular.

2.     Seek Feedback: Explain to others why you are making the decision that you are making. Ask for their input on implementing the decision. This is important since it will reduce your risk of potential bad outcomes and also make the decision a team wins when the work proves successful.

3.    Stay Positive: It is important to maintain a positive attitude. Remaining positive puts others at ease and makes them want to get behind your decision.

4.    Celebrate Success: When controversial decisions are proven to be correct be certain to thank those who pitched in to make the decision work.


Support System

Confidence is not static. It needs nurturing and development. Two key ways to keep your confidence up are by maintaining a close relationship with your significant other and having a mentor/coach.

Good personal relationships allow leaders to “unplug,” find their center, and avoid burnout. This might include activities outside of work such as hobbies or spending time with friends. Spending time with those who are important to each of us is critical.

A mentor or coach is a critical step in bolstering a person’s leadership skills. Great leaders are not born – they become great leaders over time while being formed indirectly or directly.

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