A Lesson In Decision Making From A Historic Commander-in-Chief
From my perspective, a key characteristic of a leader is there ability to make decisions under extreme pressure.
So you ask yourself, can I effectively make a tough decision when I am unsure of the outcome?
Norman Schwarzkopf was a Commander-in-Chief during the Gulf War. He used to tell a story about an early mentor of his, a general in the Army.
There was a decision in regards to the politics of the war that had to be made. The importance of this decision was 10 years of history going back and forth with the pentagon to decide whether they should go in one direction, or another. It was a huge decision that was going to effect the way the army was structured. A group of the highest ranking officials brought huge stacks of documents and complicated technical explanations.
The general just looked at them said…
“The answer is obvious, gentlemen”
And he gave them the answer.
After they left, Schwarzkopf was freaking out. He knew there was no way that general could’ve even read everything he read. This was such a complex situation with so many parts to consider. Schwarzkopf, who was a much lower-ranked officer at the time, strummed the courage to go asked his mentor how he could possibly have taken such decisive action.
“There is so much information here, there’s so much to consider, no one’s really going to know for sure. How the hell could you just make that decision like that?
The general replied,
“This has been a decision that no one’s been willing to make for 10 years. The best minds have been on it and they can’t decide, so you know what? We need to pick one and do it. Decisions are power and I’m here to make them. That’s what I’m in this position for. That’s why I’m a leader.”
“What if your wrong?
The General replied
“If I’m wrong we’ll find out quicker, and if I’m right the job will be done”
Schwarzkopf never forgot that experience.