There’s a common thread in top leadership that will surprises most people—and in some cases makes them rethink what they know about leadership.
When you think of successful leaders you probably think of people who are decisive. The ability to make a decision quickly and without waffling is one of the keystones of leadership. But leaders change their minds every day, even at the risk of being branded indecisive or a waffler. Here’s the difference: They don’t back off a decision just because they have second thoughts. They understand when a change of plan is warranted, and sometimes they take decisive action by reversing their earlier decision.
Here are some of the top circumstances where successful leaders aren’t afraid to reconsider a decision:
New information emerges. Sometimes new information shows up that changes the context of a decision entirely. It may be something that was impossible to foresee, or it may be something you or your team failed to pick up on. When that happens, don’t think in terms of blame but take the new information and integrate it into the decision-making process. Later you can revisit ways to make sure your research is thorough.
The situation becomes unpredictable or unstable. In today’s uncertain marketplace and political climate , situations can go from stable to chaotic in the blink of an eye. When that happens, it’s wise to reassess decisions that are influenced by the instability and change position if need be. There’s no virtue in steadfastly sticking to a position when everything around you has changed.
Feedback suggests it. A bold decision may be theoretically sound, but sometimes in the light of day it turns out to be unworkable in practice. If early feedback suggests that a plan isn’t working—for whatever reason—it’s wise to listen and make changes where necessary. Always listen to those who know best: those who are out in the field every day, whether team members or clients.
It’s time to wait. Once you’re into the thick of something, the clear choice may be to do nothing at all for now. It’s not a matter of reversing a decision in this case, but of delaying its implementation until conditions improve or the surrounding issues become clearer. Despite the pressure leaders feel to be bold and act decisively, doing nothing is preferable to making a disastrous choice. If waiting can give you an edge, wait.
Let’s honor those leaders who are forward-thinking enough to correct their course, pivot or wait even though they risk their reputations by having people think they are indecisive. Sometimes you need to change your mind, and that’s OK.
Lead from within. Successful leaders are able to make shifts in their thinking because they never stop looking for ways to improve the end result.
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