The study of leadership has fascinated researchers for over 50 years. It can be traced back to the origins of management as we know it today. Frederick Winslow Taylor thought that manufacturing operations could be made more efficient if you could just measure everything. He would ask workers to move rocks while he timed them to determine an average. His work eventually evolved into the “Big Idea” man: Peter Drucker. Drucker wrote about innovation, leadership, and how to build companies.
In leadership, one of my favorite books is aptly called Leadership and Decision-Making by Victor H. Vroom and Phillip W. Yetton. It was written in 1973, and it looks at the research around how decisions are made in a corporate environment. It boils down to one major question: when should you involve others in a decision? The nuances will be apparent to any executive. Should you involve your team in strategy? What about personnel decisions, including hiring and firing? Should everyone have a say in the budget?
Vroom and Yetton build a model that looks at 3 major decisions: authoritative, consultative, or collaborative. They provide guidelines for thinking about decisions and the criteria that would be required for each one. All in all, it’s a deep look at a complex topic. Based on their ideas and my work, I created a simplified model that shows a different approach to tackling the same issues. My model also has 3 types of decisions, and I also created 4 criteria to determine which one you should choose.
The 3 types of decisions in my LDMM (Leadership Decision Making Matrix) are as follows:
- Individual: You + Info
- Group: You + Others
- Delegate: Others
Let’s unpack this model. You always have options when it comes to making any decision. The first type is simply you deciding on your own. You might need to look for supporting information which could be external in the form of documents or internal in the form of your thoughts. Either way, you will weigh all the evidence and make the final decision yourself. Many leaders feel like all their most important decisions fall into this category. They are carrying the “weight” of their companies every time they make a decision.
The second type is when you involve others in the decision-making process. You could ask a colleague or someone in your team for their opinion on the decision, or you could formally gather multiple people in a room to discuss the decision. At the end of the discussion, you may decide to decide yourself or let the group decide. Group decisions can be great for getting buy-in and ensuring key opinions are considered. They can also be a disaster depending on what is being decided.
The third type is when you delegate the decision to others. In this type, you remove yourself completely from the decision-making process. You will support whatever decision is taken by those who you appoint to explore it. Delegation is the key to have a sane work-life as an executive but not enough of them are doing this. It’s also important to note that delegation can backfire if the people appointed don’t have the necessary skills or information to decide.
The 3 types of decisions are then weighed through 4 criteria:
- Conflict of Interest
I hope that the LDMM also shows you that you can’t make all the decisions yourself. There is not enough time to learn everything that could be required. You do need to lean on others, whether in a Group or Delegation format. Many executives have realized that many of the most effective solutions to problems tend to come from those closest to the actual problem. An engineer might have the solution to a tricky problem and could share it if only the management team had a process for doing that.