Many of us have been brought up to believe that we should never put off to tomorrow a decision that we can make today.
But author and professor Steven Sample writes in his book The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership
that “This bit of conventional wisdom may be good counsel for managers and bureaucrats, but it’s terrible advice for leaders.”
Instead, he suggests that to be a more effective leader you should follow the below 2 rules:
1. Never make a decision yourself that you can reasonably delegate to a lieutenant.
Sample offers a few reasons why:
Time constraints: You only have so much time to make decisions, so you should ensure that you’re focused on the most important ones.
Teaching your lieutenants: Delegating decisions to your lieutenants gives them opportunities to learn and grow.
A more aligned organization: By delegating, you’re forced to build coherence by putting together a team that has shared values and goals.
Which decisions should you make as a contrarian leader?
Sample argues that you should reserve for yourself only those decisions that relate to the following issues:
- Hiring, molding, motivating, assessing, and firing of your main lieutenants.
- Decisions that have the greatest potential impact on your organization or movement (e.g., Should we merge with another company? Should we spend half of our net worth developing this new product?).
2. Never make a decision today that can reasonably be put off to tomorrow.
As Sample points out, the timing of a decision could be just as important as the decision itself.
When you’re faced with an important decision, ask yourself: How long do I have?
In some cases, it’s helpful to use “artful procrastination”: postponing a decision can allow for potentially favorable, but unexpected, opportunities to open up.
But there can be a downside to putting off such decisions: “Sometimes no decision by Tuesday is in fact a decision by default.”
Note: We wrote about another one of Steven Sample’s ideas, the concept of “thinking gray,” in a previous issue.