We’ve all been there. In front of us is a situation that requires us to make a decision. But what is the right decision? This is one of the most high-pressure moments that leaders face each and every day. Should I or shouldn’t I; do we or don’t we? Decision-making is one of the hardest things that a leader has to do. Especially in the field of ministry where decisions can take on the “spiritual weight” that pastors and ministry leaders often carry, decision-making can easily fall victim to our own personal biases.
Now, this doesn’t mean that some people aren’t more confident at making decisions than others. It’s true that with time and experience, wisdom and understanding can help leaders make decisions expeditiously and more readily. Many leaders charge this type of thinking and decision-making to “following your gut” or intuition. However, the questions then become: What is it that is actually informing those “gut” decisions? What is it that lead your intuition to guide you toward a certain decision? How do you know that your instincts are right in this circumstance? In their article titled “Outsmart Your Own Biases,” Soll, Milkman and Payne suggest that if you never go against your “gut,” then you’ve never actually put your gut to the test. In other words, how do you know that your intuition is actually helping you make the right decisions if you’ve never tested it to see what would happen if you chose to do the opposite?
For ministry leaders, this can become especially tricky. As we become more seasoned and learn the routines and habits that help us to thrive in our ministries, the temptation to go with what we know, and do what comes “natural” to us, can actually prevent us from making the decisions necessary to grow and most effectively serve the communities we lead. Case and point, there has been a lot of research that highlights how many Christian communities are struggling to attract, maintain and grow their millennial populations. While some communities have resorted to adding “hipper” elements to their worship services, still others have looked to changing the times or locations of their worship services as potential solutions to accommodate millennial audiences. Are those the right solutions? Were there better options out there?
"If you never go against your 'gut,' then you’ve never actually put your gut to the test."
While this isn’t the article to address those topics, the fact of the matter is that more often than not, our decision-making as leaders can be limited to either our own thinking, or the examples that we’ve seen. Here are a few tips for how to expand your decision-making in order to realize greater opportunities for success:
(1) Stay Focused on the Vision: This point should not be understated. Casting, knowing, and sticking to the vision is key to ensuring that your decision-making is effective and that it continues to guide you down the path toward your goals. According to Andy Stanley, a strategic vision – “a mental picture of what could be, fueled by a passion that it should be” – is essential to knowing where you’re going and not being distracted or disoriented in your decision-making. When faced with options ask yourself, “Is this option in line with, or will it help me achieve, our strategic vision?”
(2) Think About Your Objectives: Far too often we limit ourselves, wittingly and unwittingly, to the goals that we perceive to be possible. Sometimes this is because we are simply unaware of the full range of possibilities that are available to us. More often, I’d suggest, we simply have not taken the time to really consider the potential of what is actually possible and can be achieved. Either way, this limits the probable outcomes from the inevitable decisions we’ll make thanks to the confines of our bound-thinking. When faced with making a decision, take some time to reflect on your goals. What is it that you’re actually trying to achieve? Is that the right goal, or could there be a bigger, better goal out there if only you’d stretch yourself? When we articulate, document, and organize our goals, this helps us to identify the different paths available, and ultimately helps us choose the one that makes the most sense in light of what we want to achieve.
(3) Get Others Advice: It’s like Aristotle once said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” While each of us may be good on our own, together we become so much more. It is the same when it comes to making decisions. While having more than one cook in the kitchen can be problematic, leaders can greatly benefit from seeking the advice and input from others. Be careful though. Groupthink is quite real and can quickly lead to wrong decisions. To combat this, be sure to clarify your objectives before approaching others so that you don’t get fixated on what they might bring. Simultaneously, be cautious of anchoring others in what you already believe by leading with your own thoughts.
At the end of the day, that one simple truth remains – GREAT LEADERS MAKE GREAT DECISIONS. This does not mean that great leaders don’t make wrong decisions. And it doesn't mean that great leaders ONLY make great decisions. On the contrary, what makes the decisions of great leaders great is the process through which they come to their decisions. Whether you are new to leadership or have been doing this thing we call leadership since time began, we can always improve our decision-making. All we need is the willingness to put in the effort.