When organizations don’t have leaders capable of making executive decisions, everyone suffers. This includes the business owner, their team members, and the company’s customers. Indecision causes a lack of innovation in companies, a tall stack of incomplete projects, prolonged hiring, employee work burnout, work stress, work anxiety, and profitability problems. Because the repercussions of indecision are detrimental to companies, it is crucial leaders learn, practice, and master the four decision making styles.
Those in leadership roles are responsible for making decisions that guide employees toward accomplishing the business’s vision. When a CEO or executive is indecisive, they limit their ability to motivate, inspire, influence, and confidently lead their team. As Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India says, “If you call yourself a leader, then you have to be decisive. If you’re decisive, then you have the chance to be a leader. These are two sides to the same coin.”
In this article, learn how to establish a foundational decision making process that prevents indecision from becoming a roadblock. Additionally, find out more about the four decision making styles and tips for how to practice each one below.
What are Decision Making Styles?
Decision making styles determine the way in which a person goes about solving a problem in a formulaic, strategic manner. Similar to a personality type, most people lean more toward one decision making style than the others. In regards to decision making in management, there are four styles: directive, analytical, conceptual, and behavioral.
While a person in charge of making executive decisions might favor the style that feels most natural to them, it is important to be flexible and consider which decision making style produces optimal outcomes. Being a leader is a job that requires multiple decision making styles (and leadership styles). The problems and situations leaders face are complex, which is why learning how to handle issues, conflict, and decisions in a variety of ways is advantageous.
Benefits of Using the 4 Decision Making Styles
In business, the greatest benefit of defeating indecision using the four decision making styles is playing an offensive, rather than a defensive game. When doing so, leaders position their team in a way that allows them to make headway on achieving the company’s top objectives. Strong decision-makers are great communicators who line up the play, put it into action, and strategize on the next moves the team makes. They put their plans into motion, but not before everyone on the team understands their role and how to properly execute it. As a result, the team is able to move forward and accomplish the organization’s clearly defined goals. For this reason, those who practice and develop decision making skills demonstrate people management at its finest.
Other advantages of practicing the four decision making styles include:
- Knowing how to assess risk and make informed decisions
- Managing emotion-based choices that can have detrimental consequences
- Creating a productive work environment that increases revenue
- Developing a team culture where employees feel excited about the work they’re doing instead of burned out from fighting fires caused by indecision
- Making headway on the company’s mission and positively affecting others’ lives
Discover Your Decision Style
So, how do you know what your decision making style is as a leader? To find out, you’ll need to ask yourself three different questions:
- Do your decisions require your direct focus or can you share the focus with multiple people?
- Would you describe yourself as structured or flexible?
- Is it better to get the job done with precision or make sure everyone enjoys working together?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you should be able to identify your natural leadership qualities and where you exist on the decision style spectrum.
How to Use the 4 Decision Making Styles (with Examples)
As mentioned above, a person will be more inclined to practice one decision making style over the others, yet this doesn’t mean this style is right for every situation. Practicing Situational Leadership® and using various leadership decisions helps executives adjust to their team members’ needs, while also selecting the solution that will best benefit the company and its customers. Learn more about each decision making style and how to implement them below.
1. Directive Decision Making
Directive decision makers are both practical and logical, which are two leadership skills all leaders need. They’re not going to make a decision unless they truly believe it will realistically produce a positive outcome. Because of this, decisions aren’t made without first creating an executable plan of attack. Being that they’re directive, they give each person on the team clearly communicated responsibilities and ensure everyone knows what they’re doing and how to do it. For this reason, directive decision makers expect a high level of accountability and ownership of tasks. When used in the appropriate manner, directive decision making leads to highly productive teams who work cohesively together to achieve the company’s top objectives.
Make directive decisions when:
- Developing clear processes
- Providing instructions when delegating duties
- Setting expectations and communicating boundaries
Leaders who are directive decision makers operate within the confines of their own knowledge, tried and true solutions, and logic. Due to this, they have a limited perspective and don’t always understand the bigger picture the way analytical and conceptual decision-makers do. Because they prefer sticking with what they know, they’re also less innovative and more risk-averse than these two decision making styles. Unlike behavioral decision makers, they also don’t typically consider the effects their decisions have on others.
Don’t make a directive decision when:
- Needing more time to develop a long-term solution
- Not knowing how your decision will affect a large number of people
- Lacking knowledge and perspective on a situation
Example of How to Properly Use the Directive Decision Style
The CEO of a company finds themselves swamped with unfinished tasks. They know they need to eliminate some of their busy work so they can spend more time strategizing on the business. To do this, they decide to use directive decision making to delegate out duties among two upcoming leaders in the company. Before speaking with the team members, they figure out a clear process for how these additional duties will be implemented. After this, they schedule a time to talk with each individual, communicate the plan, ask if they’re willing to be accountable for these tasks, and direct them on how to properly perform these duties as they would.
2. Analytic Decision Making
Analytic decision makers are consumers of knowledge. As researchers by nature, they want all the facts and insight they can get in order to make a wise choice. They value increased perspective, but still prefer to work alone, as their information-gathering process requires solitude. They’re also inclined to study others’ ideas and solutions but aren’t satisfied with what’s been done in the past. Instead, they use these sources to improve and advance their industries. Because of their problem solving skills, companies with leaders who are analytic decision makers are normally extremely innovative. As a result, they attract ambitious high-performers who are ready to help them change the world for the better.
Make analytic decisions when:
- Strategizing on how to accomplish long-term goals
- Finding the root of a problem
- Gathering ideas for creative solutions
While analytic decision makers are great at making informed decisions, their need to understand everything can prolong the decision making process. When a leader is working against the clock, this decision-making style isn’t as constructive as the directive decision style. Yet, like directive decision makers, analytic decision makers are less concerned about how their decisions affect the people implementing these choices. They need behavioral decision-making to formulate a plan that doesn’t cause added work burnout or work stress. Additionally, they lack the perspective of conceptual thinkers who prefer a mastermind group type of team culture. This helps team members build off of one another and improve each other’s ideas.
Don’t make analytical decisions when:
- Requiring additional input from team members
- Knowing the matter at hand is extremely time-sensitive
- Needing to lead in a humanistic, “people first” manner
Example of How to Properly Use the Analytic Decision Style
A leader is aware their product is a purple cow—meaning it is innovative for its time, but competitors will eventually catch on and create cheaper carbon copies. In order to keep their company profitable, they analyze where the market is heading and research how to reinvest their money into the company to establish an R&D department. Instead of focusing on short-term business goals, they spend most of their week learning how to pivot and develop other great products years before their best-seller loses steam.
3. Conceptual Decision Making
Similar to analytical decision makers, conceptual decision makers are innovative and creative. Theorizing and philosophizing are in their nature. They question why problems exist and consider how to overcome them in unique ways. However, unlike analytical thinkers, those who are naturally conceptual leaders value and prefer groupthink. They develop the company’s best ideas and solutions alongside their team. Because they place such an emphasis on brainstorming with others, they provide a fun, exciting environment that makes team members feel heard, acknowledged, recognized, and valued.
Make conceptual decisions when:
- Challenging the status quo and limitations
- Considering how to overcome potential obstacles in creative, innovative ways
- Planning out the direction of a business in the coming years
When it comes to the here and now, conceptual thinkers tend to lose focus. Because of this, they aren’t the best at creating action plans. They need a more directive, analytical approach when developing solutions that need implementation in the near future. Similar to analytical thinkers, their decision making process isn’t straightforward or fast. They need time to consider what others say about the problem, and want as much information as possible before coming to a conclusion. This can be an issue when the company faces hardships that require a strong, commanding leadership style used by directive decision makers.
Don’t make conceptual decisions when:
- Dealing with a problem that requires an immediate plan of attack
- Leading a group of people who heavily disagree with one another
- Choosing a fast, logical, rational decision is an urgent matter
Example of How to Properly Use the Conceptual Decision Style
The CEO of an experiential marketing company needs ideas for a new company they’re pitching to. They schedule a brainstorming meeting with their team with the purpose of coming up with a great concept to present to their potential client. After the leader briefs the group on the client’s needs, they partner everyone into pairs. They explain each group has an hour to come up with three unique ideas. Once the hour is up, each team shares its ideas with the others. After this process is over, the entire group votes on which idea will move forward.
4. Behavioral Decision Making
Behavioral decision makers make decisions based on the impact they have on those around them. Out of all the decision making styles, this one is the least self-serving. Leaders who are behavioral decision makers are well-liked by their employees because team members feel like they make choices that keep their best interest in mind. In addition to this, those who are naturally drawn to this decision making style show a high level of emotional intelligence, which includes self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. These are all necessary skills people must have to hold a leadership position.
Make behavioral decisions when:
- Handling choices that affect team member’s feelings, emotions, and well-being
- Influencing, inspiring, and motivating others
- Demonstrating servant leadership
The downside to behavioral decision making is that it heavily relies on the way other people feel about the decision being made. Leaders with this style have a hard time reaching a conclusion because they want to please every team member, investor, and client. The truth is, it is impossible to ensure all of those impacted by the decision will agree with it. Additionally, it isn’t feasible to run a business by committee. Companies need a leader who provides direction, rather than a leader who constantly asks for them. Implementing the directive decision making style alongside the behavioral one will reposition leaders as instructive, yet empathetic sources of guidance. The analytical decision making style can also be used to help business owners and executives explain why they made decisions others might not agree with.
Don’t make behavioral decisions when:
- Solving a problem that requires a practical and logical mindset
- Serving others’ interests causes harm to the business
- Feeling too emotionally attached to a particular choice
Example of How to Properly Use the Behavioral Decision Style
When closing a business deal, the CEO of a company notices their new client’s founder looks visibly nervous as the two talk numbers. The business leader instantly realizes this energetic shift and asks the founder what’s troubling them. The founder communicates they feel the deal is too financially risky. Using the behavioral decision style, the CEO begins quelling the founder’s fears by pointing out how the deal will serve the client. Yet, the founder still seems emotionally unready to sign off on the deal. To not lose the relationship, the CEO offers a risk-free 30-day trial to gain more trust and build a greater relationship with the founder.
Defeating the Mindset That Causes Indecision
The difference between knowing how to make a good decision and making a good decision is a positive, confident mindset that’s hungry for growth opportunities. This is why it is important for business owners and entrepreneurs to shift into a growth mindset that values learning and development processes. Experiencing this transformation creates decisive leaders who aren’t afraid to implement the various decision making styles to make wise choices.
As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.” People who choose to do nothing don’t practice any of the four decision-making styles because they haven’t overcome the fear of failure. This is the root of indecision and all of the business mistakes that go along with it. In order to be a good decision-maker, you must conquer this fear first, if you haven’t already.
Get more information on how to overcome the fear of failure and challenge limiting beliefs: