There is one clear difference between effective leaders and people who merely hold positions of leadership. Effective leaders do things. Those who simply inhabit the positions intended for leaders talk about doing things. They plan, they call meetings, they ask questions and hire consultants. They tabulate the input on spreadsheets and write reports . . . which they have committees review and refine, and then send to other committees who table the discussion until some future meeting on an unspecified date. (Trust me, I am not exaggerating!)
Let me be clear. I am not saying planning, gathering input and refining the strategy are not very important tasks. I absolutely think they are. However, 1) that process does not have to be a complex, mind-numbing nine-month trudge, and 2) the critical final piece of the process is to do something! Think about it. When someone highlights a leader’s accomplishments, do you ever hear them talk about their amazing meetings, or how good they are at analyzing the pros and cons of complex variables? No, accomplishments require making a decision, choosing a path, committing resources, and then doing it, whatever it may be.
I understand that the stakes may be high, and the consequences for making the wrong decision can be significant. What some people in positions of leadership fail to realize is that there are also significant consequences to not making a decision — nothing happens! No opportunity seized, no progress made, no goals accomplished.
Granted, many times a leader does not have as much information as he or she might want to be completely confident that one path or the other is the right direction. However, if it was a sure bet, a grand slam, clearly the only way forward, then the organization wouldn’t need a leader to make the decision. Any reasonable person can identify a sure thing! Effective leaders make judgment calls. Are they right every time? Of course not. But I can guarantee you’ll never hit a home run unless you decide to swing at a few pitches.
Effective leaders focus on what their organization could gain by making a decision. Those who have been placed in positions intended for leaders focus more on what they could lose if they make the wrong decision, not recognizing that their waffling causes them to lose opportunities anyway. Effective leaders consider the risks in their decision-making, but in relation to the potential reward, not as a standalone dark cloud.
There is no magic bullet, no one thing that moves someone from simply inhabiting a position of leadership to being an effective leader, but one action that is a part of the puzzle every single time . . . you have to do something!