Continuing in my series of “20 Leadership Questions,” we come to the second question that Michael Smith asked when he interviewed me. This one is particularly important. It has huge implications for your organization—especially for the culture you are trying to build.
What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?”
As leaders, you and I are called upon to make hundreds if not thousands of decisions over the course of a year. A few are monumental. Some are consequential. Most are trivial. However, I would boil down the most important decisions I make into three categories:
- Vision. Having a clear vision is essential to your organization’s health. Your organization exists to get something done. Your job is to take it somewhere. If you aren’t clear about the destination, you are going to end up lost—or, at best, side-tracked. As I have written before, what you want to accomplish is more important than how you do it. You must figure out the vision, before you can determine the strategy.
- Strategy. By emphasizing vision, I am not suggesting that strategy is unimportant. Strategy is critical. How you get from point A (where you are now) to Point B (where you want to be) is vitally important. Picking the right path is the essence of strategic thinking. The best strategies achieve the vision with the least amount of risk and in the most economical, efficient manner possible.
- People. As Jim Collins as pointed out in Good to Great, leaders are responsible for getting “the right people on the bus.” In fact you could make the argument that these decisions are the most important decisions you can make. If you have the right people, they will figure out the right vision and the right strategy. I don’t want to quibble; these are all important decisions. But I believe vision and the strategy determine what kind people you need.
As the head of an organization, I don’t need to be involved in every decision. In fact, if I insist on doing so, I will only bog the organization down and discourage the incredibly bright and cable people who work for me.
But when it comes to vision, strategy, or key positions, I insist on being involved. To do less is to abdicate my role as a leader.
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