Attributes of Leadership – Definiteness of Decision


People who waver in decisions show that they are not sure of themselves. They cannot lead others successfully – Napoleon Hill

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions![This is the fourth in a series exploring the attributes of leadership outlined by Napoleon Hill]

The Bing.com dictionary lists one definition of decision as “firmness in choosing something: the ability to choose or decide about things in a clear and definite way without too much hesitation or delay.” That fits well with what Napoleon Hill describes as the attribute of a leader. Is this quality really that important? What if you don’t have it? Can you develop the quality of making definite decisions, and if so, how? Read on!

What Is Decision-Making?

In a study conducted by Robin S. Gregory and Robert T. Clemen for Decision Research, they explored the nature and development of decision-making skills in students. They started off by debunking three myths.  Decision-making is not:

  • Simply choosing between alternatives. This simplifies the process. A decision isn’t just a choice between things. It’s a choice based on values. Thus, what constitutes a good decision varies from person to person based on their value system.
  • Simply having a good outcome. A good decision comes from an effective process, not simply the outcome. They used the example of planning a camping trip. You schedule it during the driest time of the year to minimize the possibility of rain. As things turn out, you arrive during one of the worst thunderstorms of the year? The outcome was less than desired, but the process was flawless. Therefore, it was a good decision.
  • Beyond the capacity of people based on age. Is there an age when one can start making good decisions? Are children too young to learn this skill? Gregory and Clemens say “no.” We make decisions constantly. The foundational principles behind good decisions start with understanding your objectives. Anyone can learn and practice these principles.

From the above, a few key points emerge. First, decision-making is a process. It begins with an appreciation of your core values and an awareness of your objectives. And, while you eventually see results as the cumulative effects of good decisions, you don’t base that evaluation on your immediate outcome. Additionally, we find all, even young people, can learn to make good decisions.

Why is Decision-Making so Important?

Napoleon Hill described decision as the opposite of procrastination. Successful people reach decisions quickly, and change their decisions slowly (if at all). Why? They base decisions on their definite major purpose, which harmonizes with a person’s core values. Thus they see the end result of their decisions clearly, even if it takes time for those results to materialize. This, then, brings the faculty of faith into play (which is a whole other discussion). A successful person willingly stands behind his or her decisions, even if people around him or her feel such decisions have no merit, and try to discourage that person to abandon his or her chosen course. Thus, decision-making is a key factor in success. This alone makes it a desirable skill, one we should all develop.

How Can I Develop Good Decision-Making Skills?

What Do I Do?

What can help you make better choices?

Indecision (procrastination) often finds its root in fear. If you constantly worry about what others will think, do, or say about your decisions, it encourages you to put off making any. Additionally, if you are afraid of failing, losing money, or having to live a more austere lifestyle until the results of your decisions materialize, you may waver in making those decisions until opportunity passes by and the decision is out of your hands.

I know from personal experience. Since I deal with businesses and business owners, I’m constantly contacting new people and arranging to meet with them. Most times that’s as natural as breathing. Yet there are days (and, let’s face it, sometimes particular people) where I pause. I wonder if it’s a good time to call them, if they’ll need what I’m offering, or if I’m the right person to bring value to such a person. The answer, of course, is “yes, yes, and yes!” I may not call at a convenient time, but it’s definitely a good time to call because it gets the cycle of contacts, relationship building, and mutual support started. I know they need what I’m offering; that’s why I offer my services in the first place. And I’m definitely the right person to make the offer. Sure, there are people who are more skilled and have more knowledge. Yet I definitely care about all the people I approach, whether or not they choose to use my services. So why do I ever question myself? In a word, fear. Therefore, the root of good decision-making is addressing the fear that makes us indecisive and prone to procrastination.

Napoleon Hill made a keen observation. He noted the majority of people who fail to accumulate enough of the things necessary to enjoy life are easily influenced by the opinions of others. This is classic fear of man. Such people so highly esteem the opinions of others, they fail to properly value their own decisions. Yet, if you make your decisions based on right principles, and if you factor in all the information available to you, then trust your decisions are good.

How can you counteract this fear? Try incorporating methods that have worked for centuries. A historical figure, King Solomon was widely respected as a ruler known as much for his wisdom as for his wealth. He offers counsel that can help us develop our decision-making ability. Here are some of his suggestions:

  • Consider the long-term consequences (Proverbs 22:3). There are short and long-term ramifications to many decisions. Try to think of the long-term effects to avoid being unduly swayed by short-term gains.
  • Take sufficient time (Proverbs 21:5). While it’s important to make decisions quickly, that doesn’t mean to make them hastily. Get sufficient information to make an informed choice without being bogged down with minute (and often insignificant) details.
  • Be open to counsel (Proverbs 15:22). Although no two situations are alike, we still benefit from the advice of those who have successfully faced similar situations. Find out what they did and how it turned out. Also ask what they think about that decision now, after time passed and they have more life experience. Weigh their responses, and then formulate your own plan for dealing with your situation. (Note: Choose such confidants carefully. Ask people who have values and vision similar to yours)
  • Heed a well-trained conscience (Proverbs 3:6). Assuming you base your values on right principles, your conscience can guide you to making the best decisions. That inner voice keeps you out of trouble, and often prevents you making decisions you later regret. Heed its advice (click here to read the article where the preceding information appears).

Good decision-making is not an inherent quality. We must develop it. In their study, Gregory and Clemen identified 8 themes essential to the decision-making process. Remember, their study involved secondary school students. So they developed methods for teaching those decision-making themes to teenagers. Rest assured you can learn to make good decisions or improve your skills.

How would you rate your ability to make decisions? Do you make definite decisions, and then stick to them? If not, what one thing can you do today to start developing your ability?

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7 thoughts on “Attributes of Leadership – Definiteness of Decision

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