A true leader has the confidence to stand alone,

the courage to make tough decisions,

and the compassion to listen to the needs of others.

He does not set out to be a leader,

but becomes one by the equality of his actions

and the integrity of his intent.

                                                             – DOUGLAS MCARTHUR


Wednesday morning a week ago I attended a workshop that considered what the workplace of 2030 would resemble. The program presenter, John McElligot, CEO of York Exponential, provided a very thought-provoking presentation entitled, “Embracing Disruption”.  Late into the morning, McElligot challenged us to consider our approach to problem solving. Ironically, he asked that we consider how America had responded to past school shootings and what had been learned and accomplished.  He prophetically shared, We all know what will happen if this occurs again, the left will call for bans on weapons and stricter background checks.  The right will focus on mental health issues (People, not guns, kill others people) as the cause and repeatedly cite their second amendment right to bear arms.  Politicians will lament the violence, but in the end will fail to take any definitive action that serves to assure such a tragedy never occurs again. Now, a little over a week out from the Parkland shootings, as McElligot predicted, we are seeing exactly what we we’ve witnessed in the past (Wasn’t it Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results?).  Without question, it is now time for some tough decisions to be made!  To that end, I want to consider some general thoughts regarding the decision-making process and guidelines that have been shown to be helpful when we make critical decisions that impact the lives of others.

Tom Koulopoulos is the founder of the Delphi Group, a 25-year-old Boston-based think tank that focuses on innovation and the future of business.  His post, “ Making a Life Changing Decision?  Try This Simple Quiz”, provides the reader with five considerations to assist in the decision-making process.  He recounts his own decision to leave the comfort of an executive position in a thriving company to pursue an entrepreneurial dream.  He remembers the battle raging between the logic in his head and the passion in his heart.  The agony of knowing a decision must be made and realizing that there would be no forgiveness for not making one.  Prior to revealing the five questions he makes an important point, “The simple truth is that life’s really important choices are rarely black-and-white. Most often they span infinite shades of gray. But when indecision creeps in, when the path forward is shrouded in fog, only one question really matters. What will you truly regret not having done?  Koulopoulos suggests we ask ourselves:

1 Is this something that I want to do or something that needs to be done?  Want is imposed by social constructs, context and peer influence.  Need is deeply rooted in our values, ambitions, goals and beliefs.

2 Will I truly carry the regret of not having done this or doing nothing?  Only you know what you will hold yourself personally accountable for.

3 Am I being held hostage by the fear of the decision or the goal of the decision?  Remember the decision is only the gateway to the goal.  The facts and outcomes of the decision lie on the other side.  Nothing ventured nothing gained.

4 Have I thought through the worst and best possible scenarios of the decision?  Figure out what the most likely best and worst outcomes are. Then decide if you want to maximize the upside or minimize the downside. On the other hand, if all you want to do is minimize the downside and play it safe, chances are you’ll never decide, which means you just made a decision by default.

5 Is it my decision? Take ownership.  All too often we end up making decisions to please others. While advice is abundant you’re the only one who has to live with and is accountable for your decisions.

Ready to decide?  If you answered you NEED to do this, you will carry the REGRET of not having done it, you don’t want to be held HOSTAGE by fear of the past, you want to maximize the UPSIDE and it MY decision, congrats, your decision is clear.  Now you just have to make it!

Tim Elmore, a contributor to provides some additional insights into the decision-making process through his post, “Four Guidelines to Making Critical Decisions”.  He begins the article with a timely statement, “Americans of all ages are feeling a divide…”    I agree, but it goes beyond generational differences; it includes race, gender, political affiliation, economic status, and a host of other variables.  Elmore proposes that significant leadership decisions – ones that may not please everyone, but will affect everyone, must be made with integrity and resolve.  He suggests we let four imperatives guide our critical decision-making process.

1 See the Big Picture – Endeavor to perceive all viewpoints.  Remove distance.  Brene Brown reminds us, “ People are hard to hate when they are close up!” Leaders must practice meeting personally with all parties and listen with an open mind.  Listening not only provides us with insight but it helps us build empathy.  Ultimately, people may not be pleased with the decision, but they will know they were heard

2 Take the High Road (Work to Believe the Best About Others) – John Maxwell tells us, “Take the high road, even when others don’t deserve it!”  You don’t have to compromise convictions to be passionate about a cause and most important because you disagree with someone’s choice or opinions does not mean you must hate or fear them.  Taking the high road means you treat others with respect and honor – and don’t burn bridges along the way.

3 Think Long Term (What Will be the Long Term Impact of the Decision) – Decisions must be preceded by consideration of the future implications of our words and actions.  We have come to live in a society that has come to embrace the mantra, “He who hesitates is lost”. Society pushes us to think only about today’s benefits, however it is more important to work now for a future benefit.  We must consider not only the immediate impact of our decision, but it’s long-term impact on future issues.

4 Choose Win/Win (Find Solutions Where Everyone Sees a Benefit) – While appearing difficult this is possible.  Will everyone be happy with the decision?  Probably not, however can everyone feel that some improvement is evident or they came away with something.  This means we must learn to embrace the thoughts of others.  It means to begin thinking of how we can help others gain as we pursue our own goals.  When we do this we learn to listen and understand opposing viewpoints with empathy and not just combative arguments.  We learn to act, not react to others.

It is time to embrace the challenging times in which we live.  As our children watch, let’s lead by example.  It starts with each of us demonstrating that we can engage in discussion and discourse with those having opposing or differing perspectives while remaining civil and empathetic  We must also demand that our leaders do likewise as they work together to make critical decisions impacting the future of our country.  All of us must remember that It is possible to lead with both compassion and conviction.