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Learn how to be a decisive leader (In 4 steps)

Updated: Oct 18, 2017

During the course of your career, you’ve probably picked up a lot of Leadership tips. Maybe you came across terms like Servant Leadership, Collaborative Leadership, ‘Laisse-Faire’ and so on, where the person in charge takes a custodial role, but steps backward.

That’s important to have as an option of strategy, but not all of the time.

To qualify yourself as a person with the qualities to hold your given role, your ‘fit’ for the role has to be substantiated in manners both overt and covert, visible and invisible.

Not to make you hyper-competitive or hyper-vigilant, but it is no secret that as you rise up the ranks, colleagues and subordinates are eyeing your position and evaluating your performance.

Worse yet, upper management is constantly seeking ‘reductions in force’ to reduce payroll cost and avoid duplications and redundancies.

And if you ARE upper management, you may have a board or shareholders or investors to be worried about.

Most importantly, especially in times of crisis or uncertainty, people need strong presence from those in leadership, they need reassurance that all will be well.

I posit that as a leader, you need to show at all points that

You mean business,

You know what they’re talking about,

You deserve to be in charge, and

You idea(s) is (are) essential to the path forward...

...Because of the clear and essential vision that you present.

We could write many books on Leadership (and we will!)

but here are four keys that will get you jumpstarted

as a Transformative leader in the Culture of Speak Method.

Imagine the end of any meeting

- the most important part of ANY meeting - where every high level and micro-level detail has been hashed out,

and the time is now to clearly state and restate the vision, the plan, the follow up and ‘pitch’ your idea.

Asserting yourself clearly as an individual or representative of your team, yet finding a way to solicit cooperation from others and show connectedness to the organization you’re a part of.

You’d want to rehearse this part - create a slide or cue card with the appropriate bullets.

Main goal: drive home your key points and make them memorably decisive.

Here’s a template that I’ve used and have taught my clients, give it a try!

  1. State Your Clear Decision: In a single, clear, direct, short and unambiguous sentence, tell us what you as a leader have decided is the right course of action or policy on a problem. Such sentences reduce equivocation, when needed they make your values and decision criteria clear, and they become ‘quotables’ to refer to as a shorthand for the policy, when others are trying to rationalize in their decision making process, e.g. “Customer is always right” is repeated incessantly to remind retailers that having the customer leave with a smile is paramount.

  2. Pros and Cons: So you’ve led with your bottom-line decision, why weigh out pros and cons now? Because your audience is on the fence, and you need to push them over. If they’re on the pro side, your pros emphasize to them you’ve ‘heard them out’ and yet the decision may well be substantiated in the other direction (more on that in another week’s post!). Think of this template as a report - you know the answer and analysis, and are just emphasizing the journey till this point and the journey ahead. The idea of pros and cons is more to show your due diligence and cognizance of all the facts in ample detail.

How to close this section: After stating both pros and cons in fair measure and similar tone of voice, restate the deciding factor that pushed you to your decision. Remember, this is leading up to the next step, the sell.

3. Sell: Now, you must persuade the audience of the value of your decision. Let’s check at this point, do you require their conceptual agreement, or do have them with you conceptually, and instead need to enforce compliance?

For both, it is worth restating the benefits of your plan in short term AND long term. For conceptual agreement, you’d need to make unflattering comparisons (but fair ones) with alternative plans, showing yours to be the most robust. For more compliance, you’re re-emphasizing the long term benefits (since resistance to change is likely the problem) and offering troubleshooting teams for onboarding any major changes e.g. new softwares to be used by employees.

4. Tell : Here’s where you tell us what to do and what your next steps are.

a. Co-operation: How can others help you in your tasks? Make everyone a part of the process here. Especially for strategic cross-departmental plans, you may not even have a choice. If we aren’t ‘talking to each other’, that will increase resistance to the change, so we don’t just ask for help, we ask for input and co-ownership to maximize participation and follow-through.

b. Sharing resources: From troubleshooting teams, tech support, the right combination of hotlines and Wikis will ensure everyone can pick your plan up and hit the ground running. Have some items online and also try to have handouts at the event/meeting to give to folks as easy reference hard copy.

c. Timeline: What next steps are you going to take? When is each one to be executed? What roles are designated? This is the section that all large and small details come up and are laid out in clear detail. Hold yourself as accountable as you hold others so you set the right example, and have smart benchmarks to fairly measure progress with. Gantt Charts are a great start.

Not sure how to apply this? No worries! Here is a sample I threw together, feel free to copy it for any of your upcoming meetings, tell us how they go!

Decision: So folks, we are onboarding Recruitr as our new Recruitment Software.

Pros and Cons: We looked at how it’s able to read resumes much quicker and more subtly, and there’s at least a 10% improvement on getting better fit candidates into the interview phase. It’s definitely 5-7 percent pricier, but we crunched the numbers and the cost will balance out if we can fill out our positions a month or so quicker without re-posting the ad.

Sell: I really think this is so timely with our All-Hands meeting where we emphasized it’s all about Culture with us, and I get the sense Recruitr will give us ready-to-go awesome people who really sync with our mission and want to be a part of the ride. And really over time we can ramp up their skills if they’re willing to believe in this company and take you folks on as their mentors.

Tell: I’d love for everyone to do a test drive of the platform and give us your unvarnished opinions and a list of all the bugs - does it accommodate all our open roles and HR’s new application form? I’d love for IT to continue their due diligence and Matty is working on a great WIKI to walk you through the knowledge and even making a short 2 minute video to give you the tour. The URLs are all posted on that sheet you got, plus a PDF in your inbox. Jess is drawing up 8-10 sample resumes with the dummy roles we’ve created to see what filters through, we’ve got it to play with till November 10, and I need a final report by November 3 so we can close the contract and get our first role filled with it.

Decision, P&C, Sell, Tell. That’s all you have to do to get things done.

Now go out there to your next meeting and show them who’s the leader!


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