Fast or Slow – Making Decisions as a Leader

As leaders, we constantly have to make decisions. Every day there are decisions made, which impact our teams and mission. In my experience, usually there are two immediate considerations when I am presented with the the opportunity to make decisions – fast or slow.

Is this something I can or need to decide quickly or is it something for which we should proceed cautiously?

Some decisions can (and should) be arbitrary decisions – decisions made very quickly. According to dictionary.com, Arbitrary is based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system

Others decisions need to be calculated decisions – decisions made much slower. Calculated is defined as done with full awareness of the likely consequences; carefully planned or intended

Growing to understand which type of decision-making to use at a given time will help you make better decisions and ultimately be a better leader.

  • I know leaders who have made very quick, instant, arbitrary decisions only to grow to regret them. (This leader being one.)
  • I know others, again including this one, who took too long to make a calculated decision and the delay was costly.

7 examples of thoughts of whether to make decisions fast or slow:

Faster decisions:

  • There is a serious and immediate threat or danger to people or the organization
  • The perceived impact has a limited lifespan or is easily reversible
  • The decision has a low cost or investment
  • When the decision-maker is the implementer (this is a huge one in delegation)
  • I have a sure “gut” about it. In other words, it’s a “no brainer”
  • The same decision has been made many times previously
  • We are doing an “experiment” attached to a set time

I weigh my options and try to make decisions as quickly as possible, knowing there will be another decision which needs to be made soon.

And, then, sometimes, even though we can be overwhelmed with the amount of decisions needed, sometimes we simply need to take our time.

Slower decisions:

  • No serious threat exists to people or the organization; therefore you don’t have to do this.
  • There are longer-term implications , so we will have to live with this a while
  • Higher cost and greater human investment
  • When other people will have to be the implementers, so it impacts others more than the decision-maker
  • My gut isn’t at peace and I have no clear conviction
  • The decision has been made very few times, if ever
  • I haven’t consulted with a collection of wise voices; yet there is time to do so

These are not foolproof and this is not an exhaustive lists in making decisions. These are not checklists, but using some of those type parameters helps me know whether to make decisions fast or slow.

  • Often we can make excuses to delay responding when in reality we know we need to make a decision.
  • Other times we move so fast we never consider the impact on other people – people who have to live with the consequences of our decision.

The main idea here is all decisions can’t be made at the same pace.

  • Sometimes we move fast, with a very arbitrary decision.
  • Other times, we need to be very calculated in our response.

Next time you have decisions to make, consider which method you should use for the occasion – fast or slow.

Do you see the difference in the two?

I should note, if God has made the answer clear you don’t need this post. Simply obey.

Nate and I have launched a new season of the Ron Edmondson Leadership Podcast. Subscribe now so you don’t miss the next one.

Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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