CXO

Indecisiveness is the kiss of death for leaders

Ever wondered why so many leaders with good resumes, fail miserably? Executive business coach John M McKee uses the example of a recent high-profile failure to provide some insight.

 In the world's second-largest economy, a superstar politician just lost his job because he didn't understand one of the fundamental laws of leadership.

Yukio Hatoyama, was, until June 4 Japan's Prime Minister. He'd swept into power with the largest-ever majority in recent times only nine months ago.  Then he was forced to resign in disgrace.

The son of a prominent and politically effective family that's been likened to the Kennedy dynasty, Hatoyama made a career in politics. He's held several important roles.  His background - one would assume - should have been great training for the top job in government.  Seems like it wasn't.

Like one of those guys who won a huge lottery at the local convenience store and then ends up broke a few years later; the former PM snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

His performance on both the world stage and domestic fronts was anything but impressive.  The press frequently noted that he embarrassed Japan.  But he didn't lose the faith of voters or his party because of those bad actions in the public, (including particularly odd choices of clothing,)

He could have continued to rule what is still the world's biggest economic power after the U.S. if he had just remembered one key lesson of leadership.  It's a critical lesson and it applies to leaders in all roles, in all areas and organizations. It's a Universal Law:

Act like a leader.

Regardless of what is being led, people want to believe that the person in charge will make tough decisions, and then lead them forward.

We want to our leaders be to decisive and act accordingly.

Whether it's a team, a business, or a country; across the world people want their leaders to be strong.

We all want our leaders to be able to navigate around rocky shores, keep the eye on the goal, and deliver the goods.

And in most cases we'll cut them a bit of slack for the occasional mistake.

But Hatoyama rarely acted like a leader. He came into power with big promises and statements that gave the Japanese hope that a new sheriff was coming to town.  And then he blew it.  He quickly gained a reputation for being what's called in the U.S., "a flip flopper" on very-important issues of domestic importance.  Early decisions were reconsidered. Very soon he gained a reputation of being indecisive.

Indecisiveness is the kiss of death for anyone who wants to lead.  It quickly shows itself.  When it does, the leader's career, or future. is over.  Watch your favorite successful leaders - you'll see that they're prepared to make tough calls.

Act accordingly.

John

Leadership Coach

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

27 comments
robdls
robdls

this article is neat it incorporates the process of the guy in charge so to say.

max_b
max_b

right , we need again leaders like hitler ...

mdtallon
mdtallon

I've long believed that one of the fundamental differences between leadership in politics and in business is just what is illustrated here (via responses) Business very often has the luxury of empirical data; understand it, and use your experience to make what you believe is the best decision. Act in a timely manner, and if it appears to be going wrong, reassess. You may even have the opportunity to change your decision, and do so in less time than many people take to come up with their initial decision. Politics, on the other hand, is so fraught with opinions, that many well intentioned and truly insightful leaders get lost in understanding both sides equally well and become paralyzed. There are so many instances where there is no better/best, just a decision about whether to order chocolate or vanilla. I find a certain comfort in business, even with mistakes. Politics is just too many people with too many opinions.

thegedus
thegedus

The lesson remains though the parable might be somehwat off-kilter. According to a recent Time Magazine article, in Japan, there is a powerful, intrusive and eager journalistic cadre that prey on politicians and social leaders, typically by overstating a point. Started years ago by his predecessor, the sitting Japanese Prime Minister is obliged to meet with the press twice daily. Some of Hatoyama's failure must be attributed to this constant barrage of negative reports.

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

So far most responses seem to equate indecisiveness with speed of decision -- as in the opposite of snap decisions. Wrong! (No, I mean it ... wrong definition). Webster's (and others) identifies irresolute as a synonym ... indecision refers to vacilation and a lack of clarity -- yesterday: let's do that; today: let's do this; tomorrow: no, maybe that was right. It's not how long you take to make the decision, it's how firm and clear you are in the decision. Hatoyama-san lost the leadership because he was always reversing his position. Not because he wouldn't make a decision. Which by the by is a symptom of snap decision making. [Make a decision < snap>, get information, make a different decision < snap>, get more information, make another decision < snap> and so on until all info is received]. It's a disease that seems to be infecting our society. Glen Ford, PMP http://www.TrainingNOW.ca http://www.LearningCreators.com/blog/

sysdev
sysdev

Indecisiveness is the kiss of death for anyone who needs to make a decision at any level. Even the WRONG decision is going to be better than NO decision. This does not mean a 'snap' decision is better - even a wrong decision must be a calculated decision.

C-3PO
C-3PO

I've been in management before, and know this is a failing with myself. That's why I'm happy now just being a tech - yet the pressure is still there, as you get older, to take on leadership... the article is interesting and sheds some light on the issue of decisiveness, but doesn't really give much advice as to how you do it.! For instance, you're in a tight corner, you have to make a decision. You've looked at the two (or more) sides and have weighed the pros and cons. Each side is about equal and each could either succeed or fail... now what? How do you make a decision? How do you recall the reasons you made the decision once you do when things start to go south and fall apart? When do you abandon ship (or go down with it)? Hmmm.... perhaps I'm just showing my indecisiveness... Lead... follow... or get out of the way... I'm much better at the latter two than the former.

robin
robin

True decisiveness involves weighing alternatives and having the conviction to persist with the decision. Pig-headedness is persistence that appears decisive but lacks the objective analysis, which can create even worse problems than mere indecisiveness. Making a decision is necessary, but not sufficient. The decision also must be carried out?competently. I can?t speak about Japan, but the US is largely in our current mess because of the former failing and not getting out of the mess because of the latter.

pawelbrodzinski
pawelbrodzinski

Being decisive and knowing when to allow others (subordinates) to make their calls are two sides of the same coin. If the situation is hard and time is scarce leader is expected to make a decision and if he fails to do this he fails to show leadership. On the other hand decisiveness is often abused when so-called leader creates environment where he expect to be asked about a decision about every single thing. Yes, he is decisive indeed, but that's equally wrong as he wasn't or even worse. True leader should be called when times are hard. When a situation is pretty much normal most of decisions should be delegated down in the hierarchy. Pawel Brodzinski http://blog.brodzinski.com

robdls
robdls

This article is kinda neat it incoporates the process that kinda expected of somebody seen as in charge.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Most of the empirical data is misleading, misinterpreted or just ignored usually because in someone's opinion it was useful to do so....

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Not making a decision now because of X or Y is a decision. When you make that you are saying the risk of going wrong now, is greater than the consequences of extending the period you are 'erm undecided. Indecided is basically the fear of going wrong at all. Generally in business if you allow that, eventually you come to a very limited and usually unpalatable set of options. Often only one. Like missed deadline, missing functionality, or release of low quality crap. The difference between indecisive and undecided, is a clear appreciation of the consequences of not deciding now. The difference between a good PM and poor one (or even a real one, if you count dashboard merchants) is a fall back position and in occasional lucky circumstances room to manouevre. One of the things I like to do when planning my own work is never to put myself in a position where failure is not an option, it's a certainty....

Dyalect
Dyalect

Classic Steve Carrell line from the Office. "Why do I have to decide all the time!?" -- If I had a dollar. Make a decision (#1), Stand by it (#2).

wmotzing
wmotzing

You need to schedule a weekly time away from all the noise. During that 'alone' time, consider the most important questioins you face and write down your decisions. In the heat of the moment you will have the answers ready. Plus, this habit grows into a skill that can be used on the spot. You will connect with your 'inner compass.'

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

It's displacement, because if you want to make all my decisions who's making the ones you should be.... Leadership is setting examples, indecisiveness, procastination, inability to delegate, lack of trust are all bad ones. His boss should get rid of him, course he's probably too busy micro-managing him.....

kblackmore
kblackmore

not only is what you say true, but leaders who are willing and do make decisions should be supported by upper mgmt....but corrected only when needed. I think organizations fail as frequently for "leaders" who do not support leaders as they do for indecision.

itlead2
itlead2

Most people are reluctant in making decisions because they are afraid of making mistakes. So decisions are not made. Leadership is not about not making mistakes. Mistakes are not the issue, it's what you do when the mistakes are apparent that shows your true leadership.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

not making or avoiding making a decision a decision or not. :( :( :(

MDmd
MDmd

None of us can escape our personal biases. Survey's be can easily be manipulated and skewed just as all the other statistics. Does that mean we shouldn't use them, of course not, it just means that we have to be more careful when using them to make decisions. Want to sweeten up a survey a bit! Just give everyone a sweet before they take it! (Studies have shown that they do.) I wonder if the leader of BP looked at All the emphirical data related to the deep water horizon project and how it could affect the bottom line. Was the cost-risk analysis flawed or was it just overlooked in order to increase another stat? Based upon the data - all the rigs and oil spills around the world, the risk-analysis could easily be flawed without taking into consideration the worst case scenario. From what I know of the reports and the fact that it's still leaking, it seems that was flawed as well. There is another leader to talk about! We could even talked about Obama as a leader too but it isn't really going to help out anything. One trend reported by the U.S. Department of Energy and is more of a trend - when energy prices spike - recessions follow and that seemed to have started in 1999 in the U.S and probably globally as well.

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

I'm not sure that WE actually are in disagreement. Many of the group however were making the mistake of believing that indecision and the decision to wait were the same thing. Going through your points: Paragraph 1 Not making a decision now ... That is what I was saying yes. Paragraph 2 Indecided is basically fear ... I presume you mean Undecided not Indecided. I disagree. Undecided may mean you don't have enough information to know which is the correct option. ("I never guess. It is a shocking habit -- destructive to the logical faculty" to quote the master). See paragraph 1 ... a decision not to decide is a decision. Paragraph 3 The difference ... Ummm, partly true. But indecision can be caused by politics or not caring which choice is made. Indecision is not the fear of making decisions ... it is the habit of reversing decisions. Or possibly of making too many decisions too quickly? (That's by definition btw). Paragraph 4. The difference between ... Age and cunning beats youth and skill :D Paragraph 5. One of the things ... Personally I prefer to avoid failure as an option let alone as a certainty. Unfortunately, some of my clients seem to enjoy adrenaline. I keep telling them that I'm a master at avoiding problems not solving them but ... :D

C-3PO
C-3PO

I'm glad to see a response that makes a suggestion... that sounds kind of nebulous though. Perhaps you are right though that it is a disquiet of the soul that makes it difficult to settle down and make the decisions.

harrbrow
harrbrow

Leadership is a decision, not a position. In the the words (I think) of P Drucker "For managers the test always follows the lesson. For leaders, the lesson always follows the test."

NexS
NexS

For today, is Procrastination!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Vacillation or procrastination both decisive failures. Making sure you don't design yourself into a corner is a skill, it's also cunning. :p Educated guesses are the name of the game in what I do based on the information I'm given. The trick is to remember it was a guess and plan for getting it wrong.

MDmd
MDmd

It all depends upon the size and type of business and project. I'd have to say some managers probably aren't educated in managment, others are caught up in pleasing their bosses, some want to keep a light workload, some don't like change, some want to avoid any of the major issues that come about with "New" solutions implemented at a fast pace, others are all to aware of how some of the solutions done in the past have now put major complications on trying to move forward to the new solutions. Time is money, but at the same time systems being down is even more money. Small business can usually adapt faster with technology depending on their business, but lack the resources to implement certain solutions. Larger companies have more complex systems and don't want to move fast because many of the managers have been burned or have burned themselves in the past. The old adage - if it ain't broke don't fix it seems to hold more truth, except in the realm of security and patches it's more a case of damned if you do, damned if you don't and hopefully you can set up a good test enviornment and have a good set of test plants. On the business side it seems it's more about cost vs risk, roi for large ce's, all numbers that are hard to crunch, and the trend for most businesses lately seems to be trying to reign in out of control IT spending - money not spent is money saved. Most businesses think about how time is money in the terms of profitability nowadays. I'm not a manager though, just a tech support person with no degree and lots and lots of college credit hours with about 10 years doing support work in large, medium, and small businesses. It's definitely frustrating though! You try to do the best job that you can and in essence are sometimes told you can't because it's going to cost too much, they are afraid of managing the trouble that comes with change, or have their own reaons for not wanting to move faster. I also tend to think that the faster our computers get, the more impatient we get with them.

AOS/VS
AOS/VS

This is why soulutions are implimented at such a glacial pace. Most in IT management are not actually educated in management. It takes so long to make decisions that it seems like procrastination is a desired trait. I always thought time was money? I guess business doesn't think this any more.

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