The Most Successful Leaders Ask These 5 Questions Before Making Important Decisions

Earlier this month, The Harvard Business Review (HBR) published an article that really hit home for me. It shone a spotlight on creativity in business — too often at odds — emphasizing the critical role of open-mindedness in decision-making.

As I have experienced it, decision-making among business leaders is often the opposite of what you could call “open” or “considered.” Indeed, the HBR article cheekily notes that many C-levels enjoy speed as the measuring stick for growth, not thoughtful deliberation: move fast and break things. Or, as I have heard too many times to count, “Ask for forgiveness, not permission.”

The problem with this MO is that it results in, well, broken things — including collateral damage. This, then, requires either additional attention of the decision-maker, tasked with cleaning up a mess, or those in the trenches who halt progress on key business projects so they can tidy up.

There’s a simple fix here that maintains consistent productivity while spurring innovation.

Instead of speed as the measure for progress and growth, leaders should turn to 5 holistic questions to gauge the effectiveness of their decision-making process:

  • Do my decisions consider all members of the company’s community, from investors to C suites, managers, and entry-level employees?
  • Are my decisions made after considering long-term implications for the company and not just short-term gains?
  • Do my decisions lean too heavily on easy answers and fail to provide truly effective solutions?
  • Have I taken the opportunity to consider “outside the box” options that may differentiate my company from others and encourage innovative thinking?
  • Have I, where appropriate, solicited ideas and feedback from others in the company to ensure my decisions take all perspectives into account?

These questions can be asked as part of a personal review, conducted quarterly or semi-annually, or they can be asked before/after major decisions. I find it helpful to do both.

The underlining principle here is that no leader operates in a vacuum. A company is built collectively, even if decisions are ultimately made by those at the top. The best leaders consider decision carefully, with creative open-mindedness as their guiding light.

Speed only leads to unnecessary accidents.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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