While listening to President Ramaphosa’s address to the nation on Monday evening, 12 July 2021 on the uprisings and looting in the country, I was reminded of the importance of decisiveness as a characteristic that all leaders should possess, especially in dealing with crisis situations. And the damage caused when decisiveness is not demonstrated. Decisiveness is important for any leader, albeit, in the political, commercial or non-profit spheres.
While it may be difficult to describe decisiveness, intuitively we all know when it is demonstrated and when it is lacking. When leaders are decisive, it inspires trust in those who follow, because decisiveness is a manifestation of confidence. And when times are difficult or we find ourselves in emergency situations, we need to gain confidence from those we look up to in order to find the confidence in ourselves to face the challenges ahead.
The confidence that I’m referring to is not seated in cockiness or arrogance. Instead, it is seated in an assured reliance on the strength of one’s own convictions – what you stand for and what you are prepared to fall for. So this means, effective or successful leaders need to have a clear set of values or deep convictions that give them their voice and serve as the criteria for what is tolerated and what is not.
Leaders who do not act according to the strength of their conviction will fail, not only to inspire the trust of others, but also unwittingly communicates the possibility that there may be room to challenge and push back against their authority. In crisis situations there cannot be room for opportunism or ambiguity.
Decisiveness is equally important in non-crisis situations and also requires being able to draw a line in the sand. However, whereas a sense of urgency should accompany decisiveness in crisis situations, the process for decision-making in non-crisis situations are likely to be more collaborative and participative.
Apart from courage and conviction that precedes confidence and enables decisiveness, good decision-making is, of course, also dependent on sound analysis and judgement. Good leaders make effective decisions when they have a good understanding of the problem that they are facing and are capable of arriving at logical, unbiased and ideologically-free conclusions. This, in turn, is a function of one’s intellectual ability, values, belief systems and emotional intelligence. The more complex the problem, the greater intellectual sophistication is required.
Without sound analysis, decisiveness, although it may inspire trust, will be unwise and unsustainable. Equally risky is a practice of over-analysing and failing to commit to a decision.
There are so many different aspects that influence a leader’s decisiveness which makes it far more difficult to predict ahead of time than what we may think. Those who possess it are truly talented.
Being able to identify and develop decisive leaders is a challenge for most organizations.
Yet, psychometric testing enables the assessment of many of the required elements, not only at top management, but also at middle management and supervisory levels. Each leadership level requires a different range of decisions. Through personality/values questionnaires, reasoning ability tests, identification of potential for complexity and exposure to level-relevant simulations, organizations who make use of registered psychologists and psychometrists should be significantly more successful in identifying leadership capability and their potential for development. Decisiveness is one of the competencies that Competence SA assesses.