In a recent conversation about leadership and decision-making, a phrase was used that is a good descriptor of one aspect of leadership. My comment was, “I am not always right, but I am responsible.” One of the hallmarks of leadership is making decisions and owning the consequences. It’s a primary reason many people are willing to be on the team, but don’t want to play quarterback.
A big misunderstanding younger leaders often have is veteran leaders are always sure of their decisions. Not true! I make many decisions that are in the “best guess” or “hope so” category. A prominent physician once told me, “If people knew how often we are guessing, they would be shocked. That’s why they call it ‘practicing’ medicine.” I know the feeling!
Leaders aren’t super-insightful people who have all the answers, always know what to do, or make infallible decisions. We do not (and should never claim to) always make the right decisions. While we are “practicing ministry,” we are also people who are willing to make a decision and live with the consequences. We know organizations can’t thrive in the malaise resulting from dereliction of duty. A naval officer taught me, “The first rule of leadership is ‘when in command, command.’” Leaders make decisions.
For about 25 years, I umpired various levels of youth baseball. I made thousands of decisions – some right, some wrong. Good umpires learn to make a decision and move on – especially when they know they blew the call. You can’t let the mistake you made on the last call carry over to the next decision. It’s the same with decision-making in leadership roles. Good leaders, when they make a bad decision, own it and move on. They don’t let a past mistake undermine their confidence in the next decision.
If you are a younger leader, thanks for taking on the mantle of decision-making responsibility. You are going to get some things right, and some things wrong. Trust God, be transparent about your motives, make your best call, and move on. And, if you do all this with even a little humility, your followers will usually give you the benefit of the doubt and move on with you.
You may not always be right, but you are responsible. Lead on!