“CEOs are in the business of making decisions”Sam Reese, Vistage CEO
I’ve been reflecting this week on a quote from Economist Thomas Sowell “There are no solutions, only trade-offs.”
I work with CEOs. They take decisions. They feel responsible for the consequences of these decisions. They often wait to find a “perfect solution” rather than take action today on a “less than perfect option”.
CEOs (and the rest of us) live in a world of finite resources – time, money, manpower. With every decision, we are indicating our priorities. Investing in a new project might drive growth but will divert resources from other key areas. Each choice has consequences that affect stakeholders within and outside your organisation.
There is no Perfect Solution
When I teach, I often tell my participants that the worst approach to leadership is idealism. When a leader stands up and tells the world “every child deserves to go to school, every child deserves to have a safe home, every child deserves clean water, every child deserves medical services that are free and close to them…” after the applause, nothing changes. No child notices a difference. This is the worst use of the power of leadership… an idealistic rant. I agree with every part of it… but that changes nothing. There are trade-offs.
I was reminded of this idea while attending a conference yesterday at IESE Business School. I had the privilege of being the keynote speaker at an event hosted by the company Veepee.
The slide reads: “97% of people want to live a sustainable lifestyle; but only 12% of people are actually changing their behaviour”.
There are few cost free choices. Leaders often face immense pressure to deliver clear-cut answers. The pursuit of one objective always means sacrificing another. We must be very careful with the illusionary idea of a “perfect solution”.
Perspective: A Leadership Power Tool
Far from being a bleak outlook, this viewpoint is empowering. It emphasizes the importance of perspective, context, and adaptability in leadership. Recognizing trade-offs enhances our decision-making process. It encourages leaders to appreciate the complexities, accept the grey areas, and understand that their choices reflect their priorities.
For CEOs in this complex decision-making landscape, peer groups like Vistage play a crucial role. Vistage provides a trusted circle of peers who provide insight, experience, and accountability. Leaders are not alone in their decision-making process. Vistage offers a proven decision making method where CEOs can explore potential impacts, consequences, and risks associated with each choice.
This framework allows leaders to consider their priorities, weigh their options, and make decisions aligned with their strategic objectives and values… and then commit themselves and their organisation to the decision.
Leadership isn’t about finding the perfect answer.
Leadership is about understanding the consequences of the choices you make and how those choices relate to the underlying purpose of yourself as leader.