How do you know if you are cut out for leadership? One key indicator is how comfortable you are with decision-making. I recently had a conversation with an Executive Vice President of Human Resources about the critical qualities of a leader. High on his list was the ability to make decisions. In his experience, employees who want to take on a formal leadership role who are unable to make decisions are not successful. The desire to please everyone, to sit on the fence, to “go with the flow,” and stay neutral in difficult situations is a leadership liability.

 How decisive are you? Here are a few tools to help you demonstrate your decisiveness and highlight that you are ready to step into a formal leadership role or that you will thrive in your current leadership role.

  • Be a problem solver. Any time you point out a problem in your current organization, make a recommendation or also offer your preferred solution.
  • Make decisions within your current sphere of influence, regardless of how small that sphere may be. Start with small things and larger opportunities will present themselves.
  • Check your behavior in meetings and group discussions. Do you share your opinions or do you try to placate all the, sometimes contradictory, opinions of others? Too much fence-sitting, wishy-washiness, or people-pleasing is a sign that you may not be ready for the challenges formal leadership brings. 
  • Hone your critical thinking skills. Good decisions are made using good critical thinking. Engage in “cost-benefit analysis” and be able to articulate both the benefits and the costs of your decision. Remember, costs come in many forms beyond the financial. Being able to articulate a broad range of both benefits and costs will demonstrate that you have a grasp of your organization as a whole. It will demonstrate you have a solid grasp of business principles and can see beyond the here and now of your own team, department or division.
  • Don’t “hide” or downplay the risks or the costs inherent within your decision. Failing to acknowledge the downside of a decision, or worse yet, trying to hide the downside, can be disastrous. Failing to acknowledge the downside can make a leader look, at best, naive and, at worst, manipulative. Effective decision makers acknowledge the downside and clearly articulate how the benefits outweigh the costs.
  • Defend your decisions without becoming defensive. Leaders are often called upon to provide rationale or justification for their decisions. Sometimes decisions will be downright challenged by others. Your ability to speak logically and not take things personally speaks volumes about your leadership ability.

Decisiveness is a critical leadership ability. By using the above tips you can display your ability to lead by displaying your decisiveness.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.