In Bluffton, SC there is a large downtown intersection with four stop signs and four entrances. It is a four-way intersection. There are some interesting observations about 4-ways that came up as I drove through it the other day. I noted how they can be extremely dangerous and quite a few things have to happen for them to work properly. First, someone has to care for the public welfare and actually stop at the stop sign. Next, the drivers have to look around and assess the situation. There may be many different cars around. They also have to remember that the first person to the 4-way gets to go first. Then, if two come at the same time, the person on the right gets dibs. But there is one crucial step that often does not happen that slows down these intersections.
Someone has to get beyond assessment and make a decision. I have the feeling some people never stop assessing the situation and just don’t like to leap.
We all tend to know how the intersection works, but if someone does not decide to go – then everyone stalls. I get infuriated when the person that is supposed to go decides to wait. They ruin the system and then there are suddenly multitudes of options available. Essentially – if the first person who should go does not go, then the rules no longer apply. Someone has to decide to go first. But if everyone decides to go first – everyone has to stop to avoid collision.
So the trick is to decide to do the best possible action.
In my case, most people decide not act as the system completely breaks down – I almost always decide to go. I make eye contact with everyone – I note the ambivalence of the crowd – and then I book it. The decision has been made – it has been made by me. I am gone.
I wasn’t always a decision maker. Growing up I remember the comfort of group consensus in a large family, but there are times when no one is stepping up. I have come to believe that Making a Decisions is the beginning of true leadership. A leader is someone who can make a decision and accept all the possible rewards or consequences associated with that decision. A leader makes or breaks a project or a goal or an action based on how well they assess a situation, make a plan, and execute with the hopes of desired results meet or exceed expectations.
I experienced different types of leadership under two High School Youth Pastors I worked with at Grace Chapel in Lexington, MA. I worked with them and I was fascinated by their ability to assess a situation (which means real processed thought based on experience and research, not just knee jerks), allocate resources and personnel to the issue, and work towards the resolution of any problem by continuing to troubleshoot until the desired results were achieved. Creating small groups, meeting with parents, making teaching schedules, allocating interns to projects, retreats, finances, whatever – the leader is like the engine of a greased up machine and I admire that.
Sometimes the world is padded and buffered so that no decisions or expertise is needed, but when you get down to it, you really want to be in a group with a person that can make a decision. We make buttons to cover up complex processes, in order to allow easy access – but if something in that process breaks down you need someone who understands what is behind the button. At the very least you need someone who can make a decision to fix or replace what is causing the issue with the button.
Sometimes that decision maker is you. So sit down and think about the actual mechanism of the decision. Can you do it? Are you willing to take up that responsibility? Where can you make the best decisions and in what way can your plans be carried out the greatest?
Expertise + Resources + Decisions = An executable Plan. Without a Plan, we are all doomed to mediocrity and crashing our cars.