Ask Don't Tell Leadership HTML version

An E-Book by Gary B. Cohen
Create Better Decisions: Whose Decision Is It?
As clients meet with me to discuss leadership, inevitably the
conversation turns to decision-making. Making decisions
is one of the most taxing job responsibilities that leaders
have. In my experience, leaders suffer more than they should
because they make too many decisions. Too often, they fail
to ask, “Whose decision is it?” or “Who is the decider?”
When leaders take the burden of responsibility too far, they
either want to protect others from making tough decisions
or they want to extend their power. The result is often poor
decision-making because these leaders do not have sufficient
information. And the team members who should have made
the decision do not gain valuable experience. Instead of
adhering to the old Harry S. Truman adage, “The buck stops
here,” these leaders should do a better job of clarifying job
responsibilities, trusting their team members to make good
decisions, and then holding them accountable.
Lord Carrington, whom I knew for a brief time, was minister
of the British Defense Department during the Falkland
Islands war. The war was launched because of a mistake a
radio operator made on one of the frigates out at sea. Lord
Carrington was obligated via ministerial responsibility (the
British version of “The buck stops here”) to resign. After all, if