Leaders go through daily challenges in making decisions. Some dread the process. To look to the left or to the right, leaves leaders in dilemma. One big worry for leaders is the fact that one good decision today may not be the best tomorrow. This is a fact. Heraclitus said ‘you cannot step into the same river twice, for other waters are continually flowing on’. Leaders go through self-experiences and every experience is a lesson. This is the main reason why some leaders dawdle to decide. Yes, it is good to be a quick thinker but it’s prudent to be meticulous somewhat slow and getting decisions right. It is logic to make good decisions out of bad options. Just like morality, choosing between right and wrong shouldn’t be a difficult process. This should be a no brainer for a leader.
“Truth versus loyalty, Individual versus community, Short-term versus long-term and Justice versus mercy. “Hughes et al.(2015)
Leaders would rather have challenges with dilemma situations where they have to choose between two ‘rights’. Most of the time, decisions compete and leaders have to decide anyway. Sometimes values and priorities contest a leader’s time and resources. What makes the decision process difficult is the fact that the entire team would be watching keenly and this heightens the degree of dilemma in making one decision. As a matter of fact, making the right decision between two rights is also about leader ethics and principles and not necessarily priorities. Kidder, in Hughes et al (2015) acknowledged four shared ethical dilemmas: Truth versus loyalty, Individual versus community, Short-term versus long-term and Justice versus mercy.
A good leader may be inclined to please the employer at the expense of the institution. The truth would be that, the institution may be struggling. But in the name of loyalty, and because some leaders would be willing to sell their conscience, they find themselves in dilemma. Leaders sometimes focus on themselves at the expense of an entire team. Some also forget about long term needs and deliberately focus on short term goals and there are instances where leaders overlook wrongdoings to breed cancerous teams for organisations. In all these, Kidder once again offered three approaches to deal with ethical dilemmas when they come up (Hughes et al 2015). Use the ends-based thinking, rule-based thinking or the care-based thinking depending on the situation, to fix dilemma issues. With the end-based approach leaders should focus on decisions that would be best for the majority of people. Some call it the utilitarianism principle. The care-based approach is purely commonsensical.
The Holy Scriptures preached it and popular religions preach always. ‘Do what you want others to do to you’. The final approach is the rule-based thinking which proposes that when leaders are in dilemma they should consult the highest principle or policy. I use this often times in people management. My big question to offenders has always been; what does policy say? It has been argued that you don’t get innovative if you refer a lot to policies. But I can also confirm that leaders who refer to policies in dilemma situations have come out champs even in adversarial conditions.
Think, when in dilemma. Don’t worry when in dilemma. Remember, all the approaches proffered by Kidder in dealing with dilemmas called for thinking. To manage dilemmas, a leader must be principled ethically and should be all-time ready to face the surprises. What may be a dilemma today could be just an issue of morality tomorrow. Take your time. Decide right. Choose right to win in dilemma situations.
For this is Leadership!
Author: Richard Kwarteng Ahenkorah
Principal Trainer, Eagle Knowledge Institute || Author: Your Journey To The Top