Effective leaders earn credibility by making decisive decisions. Even better, they stick to their decisions even when obstacles arise.
Many would-be leaders fall into the trap of treating their decisions as moving targets. They waver after setting a direction or back away from a commitment, leaving employees in a muddle.
Colm Foster, aconsultant in Dublin, Ireland, used to work for an executive who avoided decisions. Foster and other disgruntled employees referred to their boss as “Wishy-Washy” because they knew he’d flail instead of making bold decisions and standing by them.
Whenever he oversaw an assignment, he’d give vague directives and make half-hearted promises. When questioned, he’d rarely give a straight answer. Foster and his peers avoided this executive and tried to join project teams that didn’t include him.
Strong performers shied away from working with “Wishy-Washy,” so he attracted mediocre team members. This created a downhill spiral where the executive, who drove away strong employees, was stuck with “C players” who produced work that was late and overbudget.
For Foster, the lesson for leaders is to make bold decisions and follow through.
Weak leaders often suffer from “cushion syndrome” in which they bear the impression of the last person who sat on them. They’re apt to switch direction based on incoming input, and the last thing they hear carries the most weight.
— Adapted from Step Up, Henry Evans and Colm Foster, Jossey-Bass.