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Leading Beyond Likes: The Challenge of Decision-Making in Leadership

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I like to be liked. Hundreds of times, you’ve said things like, “I don’t care if I’m liked or not,” or “Take it or leave it,” but those statements mainly were deflections.

I like to be liked. You do, too. It’s natural. Human.

And that’s a problem for leaders. 

Leaders Aren’t Ever Completely Liked

Have you heard the phrase, “If nobody’s mad, you’re probably not leading”?

I used that quote as an excuse a time or two, but regardless, the statement is true to an extent. 

The more people you have following, the more opportunity there is for frustration. The reason is simple: Leaders must make decisions, and not everyone will agree with your decision.

Sometimes, we make bad decisions and must apologize. We often make the right decision based on what we know, but not everyone agrees or knows what we know.

A Recent Example

My oldest daughter and her new husband just put a contract on a home. It’s an exciting time.

I went to see the home with them and met the selling agent. As they signed the contract, the agent discovered that I once served as the lead pastor of Woodstock City Church. This revelation often leads to interesting conversations, and this was no exception.

After recognizing me from church, the agent told me that she didn’t like how churches act behind the scenes. Of course, this made me curious. This statement isn’t what you’d expect to hear from a person who just realized I was the pastor at the church she formerly attended. 

I dug a bit more and found out she has a son who is friends with a former staff member I let go. From her perspective, and in her words, my decision was a “political and unnecessary decision.”

Yes, she told me this as my daughter and son-in-law were signing their contract. 

This caught me off guard, but I responded kindly, saying, Well, I was the one ultimately responsible for every decision like this at the church. I hated making these decisions, as they were painful for everyone. But the most challenging part of staff change decisions is how much information I know versus everyone else knows.”

She listened and appreciated my ownership of the decision and my perspective. 

Here was her problem. And she’s far from alone. People don’t realize they lack some information, but that doesn’t keep them from having strong opinions.

The Solution for Approval

There is a pretty simple solution:

  1. Ensure every person with an opinion (or who will form an opinion) gets all the information (and I mean all).
  2. Allow every person to speak into the decision.
  3. Refrain from deciding until there is 100% consensus.

That’s the solution. And it’s completely infeasible.

First, it’s impossible to share all the information with every person, and everyone doesn’t deserve all the information. When I had to make staff changes, I possessed information that only I knew. It would make my life easier to share all the dirty information laundry with everyone, but that’s unhealthy and incredibly disrespectful to the person being let go. 

Second, how long would it take to decide if everyone’s opinion had to be included? Infinity is the answer.