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Four Decision Making Models

·3 mins

There are four common decision-making models, and smart leaders are clear with their teams and community about which one they will be using in a given situation.

Authoritarian — The leader decides without any input #

All of us make many decisions like this every day based on our experience and best judgment. For complex decisions, however, most leaders recognize the benefit of gathering multiple perspectives to inform their thinking. Don’t bring your team together if you don’t plan to listen to them.

Consensus — The participants reach an agreement everyone can support #

This method is rarely used in practice because it is so time consuming and requires a commitment among all participants to support the decision in public and private going forward. Anything less than that commitment isn’t true consensus and will damage trust in the long run.

Democratic — Majority rules #

This one is easy. The leader calls for a vote after the proposal is debated and is bound by the results. While it might be useful for picking a restaurant for dinner, this method is rarely used outside of formal board meetings or other similar proceedings. Calling for a vote is rarely the right move in a difficult leadership situation.

Consultative — Decision with input #

In this model the leader solicits input from multiple sources and uses that accumulated wisdom to inform their decision. It’s likely that not everyone will agree with the final decision, yet the leader should ensure that all parties are heard and their perspectives are considered.

Unless bound by law or policy, leaders have the freedom to choose whichever model they deem best suited for the situation at hand. Make sure you declare your decision making approach up front so your people can calibrate their expectations. It can be as simple as saying something like the following for a consultative process:

We will be talking about the timing of the new product launch at our meeting today. I look forward to hearing your best thinking and discussing whether an early or late summer launch would be most effective. I will listen carefully today, ask lots of questions, and let you know what I have decided during our call next week.

A Thought to Ponder #

I am still learning.
—Michelangelo (at age 87)

Something Delightful #

The historic landing of NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars on February 18th has renewed interest in the idea of humans traveling beyond Earth in the not-so-distant future. Fortunately, the cartoonist at xkcd has given us a glimpse into just how much available real estate is out there in our solar system. Don’t miss the rush for a prime lot on Ganymede.

Surface Area cartoon by XKCD showing the relative sizes of Earth’s continents compared to the surface areas of the solar system’s solid surfaces.