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Effective decision-making: skills, process & strategies to improve as a leader

by Thuy Sindell, PhD. and Milo Sindell, MS.

Effective decision-making: process & strategies for how to improve decision-making skills as a leader

Decision-making is a cornerstone of successful leadership and one of the most important leadership skills to master.

For leaders, the ability to make sound decisions is the difference between a thriving and faltering company, and career.

Leaders who possess strong decision-making skills have the power to navigate the complexities of the business world and steer their organizations toward success.

What is decision making?

Decision-making is choosing the best course of action forward based on analysis, judgment, and consideration of all potential resources and outcomes.

It’s not just making a choice but making the right choice that aligns with your goals & objectives.

Effective decision making

Effective decision-making requires a systematic approach that combines critical thinking, problem-solving, and emotional intelligence.

Why good decision-making matters for Leadership

Why is decision-making important in Leadership?

Good decision-making matters for leadership as it affects the business venture in a multitude of ways - with some of the most important being:

1) Influence on organizational success

Good decision-making ability directly impacts an organization’s success. A good decision maker:

  • Leads their teams to reach targets
  • Increases profitability
  • Maintains a competitive edge

2) Trust & confidence

Trust is the foundation of a strong organizational culture.

When employees see their leader making well-thought-out, confident decisions based on facts and feedback, they’re more likely to follow & support those decisions.

3) Adaptation to change

The business landscape is constantly evolving.

Great leaders have a process and are comfortable making decisions in uncertain and rapidly changing environments, adapting to new challenges, new opportunities, and setting a clear direction in times of crisis such as:

COVID-19 pandemic

  • During the COVID-19 pandemic leaders had to make quick decisions regarding remote work, safety measures and business continuity plans.

Disruptive technology

  • Look at the explosion of AI. Consider a CEO’s decision to invest in new technology - if executed well, it can streamline operations, reduce costs, and improve customer satisfaction.

No matter whats going on in the world, great leaders understand they must guide their teams, departments & organizations to hit their goals and achieve their vision.

Decision-making skills

What are decision-making skills?

Decision-making skills are a range of abilities that enable leaders to make informed & effective choices.

Strong decision-making skills are vital for navigating the complex challenges of leadership. Some key decision-making skills are:


Problem-solving is the ability to define a problem and the logical steps needed to solve it.

Effective leaders excel in problem-solving. They can identify issues, break them down into manageable parts, and develop logical steps to address each component. Problem-solving skills are essential for tackling both day-to-day challenges and complex, strategic decisions.

Logical reasoning

Logical Reasoning is the ability to reason well and weigh options accurately.

Logical reasoning involves thinking critically & objectively. It helps leaders assess information, recognize patterns, and draw conclusions based on evidence. Leaders who excel in logical reasoning are less likely to be swayed by emotional arguments or biases.


Creativity is the ability to think outside the box to develop possible solutions.

While logic and analysis are crucial, creativity plays a vital role in decision-making. Creative leaders can envision innovative solutions and approach problems from unique angles. They are open to unconventional ideas and are not limited by existing norms or constraints.

Collaboration skills

Effective leaders seek input from others and collaborate in the decision-making process.

Collaboration is a valuable decision-making skill, as it harnesses the collective wisdom of a team. Leaders who involve team members in the decision-making process benefit from diverse perspectives, increased buy-in, and a broader pool of ideas to consider.

Emotional intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognize and mitigate where bias or emotion is affecting.

Emotional intelligence is crucial for making decisions that consider the feelings and emotions of oneself and others. Leaders with high emotional intelligence can manage their own emotions and navigate interpersonal relationships effectively and are less likely to make impulsive or emotionally driven decisions.


Courage is the ability to move forward in the face of uncertainty or unpopular choices.

Courageous leaders are not afraid to make tough decisions, even when they involve risk or adversity. They are willing to stand by their choices and face the consequences, even if those decisions are not universally popular.

What can prevent effective decision making?

Several factors can hinder effective decision-making:

Lack of information

Insufficient data or incomplete information can lead to poor choices. Leaders must ensure that they have access to relevant information and consider its accuracy and reliability.

Fear of failure

A fear of making mistakes can hinder decision-making. Leaders should embrace the idea that some degree of failure is inevitable and view it as a learning opportunity rather than a setback.


Overestimating one’s abilities or underestimating the complexity of a decision can lead to errors. Leaders should seek input from others and remain open to different viewpoints.


Predispositions and biases can severely hinder effective decision-making.

What are decision-making biases?

Decision-making biases are predispositions and mental shortcuts that can lead to irrational or suboptimal decisions.

For leaders, recognizing and mitigating decision-making bias is crucial

Below are some of the most common biases that impact leaders decision-making:

Confirmation bias

The tendency to seek or favor information that confirms preexisting beliefs or decisions, while ignoring contradictory evidence. Leaders must actively seek diverse perspectives and challenge their own assumptions.

Overconfidence bias

Believing that one’s judgments and decisions are more accurate or superior to those of others. This bias can lead to unwarranted risk-taking. Leaders should encourage feedback and consider alternative viewpoints.

Anchoring bias

The tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information encountered when making decisions. Effective decision-makers should gather a wide range of information before settling on a course of action.

Hindsight bias

The inclination to see past events as having been predictable or to believe, after an event has occurred, that one would have predicted or expected it. Leaders should avoid making decisions based on hindsight and focus on the information available at the time.

The decision-making process

What is the Decision-Making Process?

The decision-making process is a systematic approach used to arrive at a well-informed decision. The total number steps vary depending on the complexity of the decision.

What are the steps in the decision-making process?

The key stages of the decision making process:

Start now

Recognize the need for a decision and set a timeframe for resolution. Starting the decision-making process promptly is crucial, as delays can lead to missed opportunities or increased risk.

Explore your options

Gather information, identify alternatives, and consider possible outcomes. Effective decision-makers invest time in researching and understanding the available choices this involves collecting data, consulting experts, and considering historical data or past experiences.

Generate good alternatives to decide between

Ensure you have a range of options to choose from. The more solid alternatives you consider, the better your chances of making an informed decision that leads to a favorable outcome.

Consider the facts

Base your decisions on factual information and data. Facts provide a solid foundation for decision-making and reduce the influence of biases.

Weigh pros & cons

Analyze the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative. Creating a pros-and-cons list can help you visualize the potential outcomes and make a more informed choice.

Avoid analysis paralysis

Don’t get bogged down by overanalyzing or seeking perfection; make decisions in a timely manner. Overthinking can lead to missed opportunities or indecision, hindering progress. It’s important to strike a balance between thorough analysis and timely action.

Communicate your decision, and take action

Clearly communicate your decision to relevant parties and initiate the chosen course of action. Effective communication is vital in ensuring that everyone involved understands the rationale behind the decision and their role in its implementation. Taking action promptly is key to achieving desired results.

Evaluate your plan

Continuously assess the progress and impact of your decision and be open to adjustments if necessary. Effective decision-makers monitor the outcomes of their choices and are willing to adapt when circumstances change or new information becomes available.


Decisiveness is a key aspect of leadership.

Delayed decisions can lead to missed opportunities and organizational inefficiencies so leaders need to be able to make choices swiftly and with confidence. Not rushing into decisions, but making timely, well-considered choices.

Why is Decisiveness Important in Leadership?

When leaders exhibit decisiveness, it sets the tone for their teams.

Demonstrating decisiveness and confidence, especially in the face of challenge, can boost morale and motivation among employees.

It also helps prevent analysis paralysis - getting stuck in a perpetual cycle of overthinking without taking action.

How to improve decision making skills as leader

Some of the most common questions we are asked over and over again are:

  • Is decision making ability inherent or can they be improved?
  • How do I develop my decision-making skills as a leader?

Decision making is a skill that can be developed

First - Yes. You can improve your decision-making ability with some work. Effective decision-making is indeed a skill that can be developed, and it is worth the effort.

Second - Improving your decision-making skills is a never-ending journey. Embrace the process and understand that decision-making is a skill that can be cultivated and refined over time. You can start with the following:

1) Develop a decision-making framework

Create a structured approach to decision-making that aligns with your organization’s goals and values. Having a framework in place can help you make consistent and rational decisions.

2) Continuously learn

Stay updated on industry trends and best practices in decision-making. Attend workshops, seminars, or courses on leadership and decision-making to expand your knowledge.

3) Foster a culture of openness

Encourage open communication and the sharing of ideas within your organization. A culture of openness promotes collaboration and ensures that multiple perspectives are considered.

4) Reflect on past decisions

Analyze your past decisions, both successful and unsuccessful, to identify areas for improvement. Consider what went well and what could have been done differently.

5) Get feedback

Encourage feedback from colleagues, mentors, or peers to gain different perspectives on your decision-making. Constructive feedback can provide valuable insights and highlight blind spots.

6) Put better decision-making at work into practice

Actively seek opportunities to make decisions and learn from the outcomes. Practice is essential for honing your decision-making skills.

7) Mentorship and coaching

Seek guidance from successful leaders or invest in leadership development programs. Learning from those who have a track record of effective decision-making can provide invaluable insights.

Develop your decision making skills

Making good decisions is a critical skill for leaders. As a leader, you must accept responsibility that your decisions shape the future of your organization, influence the lives of your team members, impact the satisfaction of your stakeholders, and move forward - decisively - as such.

By honing your decision-making skills, you can navigate the complex landscape of business and leadership with creative thinking, competence, and confidence.

Now is the time to take action. Contact Us to start your journey toward more positive outcomes and become a more effective decision-maker today.

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