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3 Decision-Making Questions All Great Leaders Should Ask - Hero

3 Decision-Making Questions All Great Leaders Should Ask

June 1, 2016

The key to great decision-making

“If we get better, customers will demand we get bigger.” – Truett Cathy

This quote is very simple, but the truth is often lost in the drive to grow our organizations. We must focus on getting better, not bigger — the former will inevitably lead to the latter. When faced with decisions, wise leaders will not lose sight of this simple yet profound truth.

As leaders, we face thousands of choices daily — many before 10:00 am! These choices will ultimately determine the direction and level of success of our organizations. In his address at the 2012 Chick-fil-A LeaderCast event, Andy Stanley used Truett Cathy’s quote to introduce three questions every leader should ask when faced with difficult decisions.

3 decision-making questions all leaders should ask:

1. What would my replacement do? 

Andy challenges leaders to think as though they were the person replacing themselves. The main point was to take emotional connections out of the decision-making process. He used the analogy of an old couch in your parents’ home. Your parents are emotionally attached to it no matter how out of date or ugly it is. A lifetime of memories imbues it with deep sentimental value. This kind of thinking is fine when deciding whether to replace a worn sofa, but in our organizations, this kind of emotional thinking can be detrimental. We can’t hold on to ideas, systems, or cultures that are outdated and ineffective. If we do, our replacement may just be the one making the decision for us!

2. What would a great leader do?

Who do you consider the greatest leader? Go big! Churchill, Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr—who’s the most influential leader in your mind? Andy describes a great leader as a “selfless, focused, passionate decision-maker.” Now, consider what that great leader would do if he or she were facing this decision? Stanley encourages leaders to “give yourself permission to step outside of your limits to consider what a great leader would do.”

3. What story do I want to tell?

To ask it another way, what do you want your legacy to be? Stanley described how the decisions we make now will one day be the stories people tell about us. Since this is the case, Stanley passionately asks leaders to “never make a decision that will negatively impact your story.” Don’t make a choice that compromises your integrity!

Andy Stanley’s words have caused me to examine the decisions I currently face. Am I ready and willing to make those tough decisions? And what is the story I want to be told about those decisions in the future?

One of my favorite movie quotes comes from the movie Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe. Crowe’s character is a Roman era gladiator general named Maximus. In the movie, he states, “what we do in life echoes in eternity.” The scriptwriter was most likely not thinking about leadership when he wrote that line, but I think that it definitely applies. What we decide today becomes part of our stories forever; and as leaders, our decisions become part of our organization’s story, as well.

If you want to grow your organization, make the decisions that are needed to get better not just bigger!

What decisions are you facing that require a “great leader” to make them? Are you up for the challenge?