School leaders are faced with making many decisions each day. From time to time these decisions may not be popular with everyone. Unfortunately, there are some decisions we can control and others that we cannot and, oftentimes, we have to take responsibility for both. Many decisions that educational leaders make require teachers to support a change initiative whether that be writing new curriculum, supporting new policy and procedures or moving to a different way of doing things. When leading the change effort we have to know when to push and when to hold back, this is where being able to gauge the impact of decisions is such a key skill of a good leader; a sixth sense, if you like.
Good educational leaders are able to consider the impact of a decision comprehensively before making it, so that backflips akin to those performed at Cirque du Soleil, are avoided once the decision has been made. So what is that good leaders do when making decisions?
The best decision-makers appear to have 5 key attributes:
High levels of emotional intelligence. Good leaders are able to assess the impact of a possible decision on their colleagues by reading the body language of those in the room. They take the time to ask teachers how they feel about the proposed change / decision based on these observations. Good leaders have social awareness where their focus is external, beyond managing their own emotions, and seek to understand the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others as a form of relationship management. As a result, they are able to read how a decision may influence staff morale and school climate.
Control of their emotions. They know how to ride out the emotions associated with a decision when things are shaky and clear the waters clouded by mixed feelings to make the best choices.
The ability to handle uncertainty. Sometimes we can go to extraordinary lengths to avoid making an uncertain decision, whether it is by gathering additional information or finding some other way to procrastinate. The best decision-makers know when to just accept the uncertainty, stop wasting time and move on. To help them do this, they are able to take a smorgasbord of choices and limit them to only a few, as the know that exploring every possibility is either not feasible, too time-consuming or makes it too difficult to arrive at a decision.
Trust and confidence in their intuition. From reading articles on many great leaders, they all tended to trust their intuition. It has been quite interesting recently explore that there are many resources available to assist people in developing their intuition or hearing their intuition. One of the best ways I have come across is that good leaders do have a way to disconnect from the situation that they are in or step back from their work to notice themselves, their thoughts and feelings, which often leads them to greater clarity in making a decision. With a difficult decision, can you sleep on it and actually get some sleep? If not, therein may lie the problem. Learn how to quiet the noise in your head.
Willingness to take responsibility. Great leaders take responsibility, they will not hide or make excuses for a decision that goes wrong. Similarly, their team know this and they will give everything to support their leader, as the support and respect is mutual. When everyone in the room knows this, a decision is far easier to reach.
Developing the above will help with decision-making, which is crucial given that we cannot avoid decisions; if we do not make them, they will be made for us.