You set the goal, choose the way and steps to get there, set the tasks for your team - and lift their spirits.
A recent HBR article reflects on making good decisions.
Center versus business unit
Business units do their job on the front line, close to the customer whereas the center is the one who can see the big picture. It can set the broader goals, and it keeps the organization focused on winning.
The way I've come across this phenomenon, I would now strongly go for the centralized option. For it seems to be that only with the bigger picture can one tell between different choices, which of them will benefit the organisation most. The sub units tend to sub-optimize and their aim is easily focused on the short term revenue/goal.
Dreaming about brilliant leadership
On the other hand, I still dream about tools that would steer the whole organisation to one commonly set direction without the parts wanting something of their own. - Have you found that toolkit yet?
Nick Morgan wrote a nice article in Forbes. In Leadership Is All About Emotional Persuasion he points out a few things defining successful leadership:
Persuasion means changing someone's mind. If the mind isn't changed, the person hasn't been persuaded. -- So a leader's job is to change minds, to push followers to make new decisions.Something alike can be found in Pentti Sydänmaanlakka's thinking. In his book on intelligent leadership (Älykäs johtajuus Talentum 2004), he, too, defines leadership as a process: "Leadership is a process where the leader effects an individual or a group in order to reach the common goal" (translation mine).
A heart-warming example in Sydänmaanlakka's book names a few principles regarding leadership:
Emphasize the meaning of the customer Give room to people who make things happen Acknowledge competence Inspire yourself and everyone to top results
Function versus function
Who actually does the balancing act between product development and marketing during the design of a new product? Let's assume marketing is the function to tell what the customers want, and the R&D project has some slightly different goal - who will bring the common goal to decision-making?
Cross-functional decisions seem too often to elude in compromise solutions, not to mention the frequent need to be revisited because the right people were not involved from the start!? On the other hand, if we would really act customer-centric (not just talk about it), shouldn't this problem vaporize away, this instant?
Inside versus outside partners
Good decision makers recognize which decisions really matter to performance. Knowing that together with the commonly shared goal are, in my experience, the main elements to make any organization prosper.
Good decision makers, a.k.a good leaders think through who should recommend a particular path, who needs to agree, who should have input, who has the ultimate responsibility for making the decision, and who is accountable for follow-through.
Good leaders thus make the process routine. And, as the result, they gain better coordination and quicker response times.
In times like these, we need good leaders.