As a leader, have you ever struggled with a decision? If you lead or have ever led anything, the answer is unequivocally “yes.” Making decisions is crucial to leading. Making decisions is an inseparable part of leadership. Leaders who cease to make decisions abdicate their leadership.
Of course, some decisions are obvious, some are more challenging, and some are absolutely daunting. The decisions leaders face during times of transitions, whether personal or organizational, are often the most difficult. The reason is simple:
Transitions bring cloudy conditions.
Great decisions are only possible when we have clarity—clarity of the situation, problem, possible solutions, and ramifications. So, our first step should always be to seek God in prayer for clarity. Clarity is essential, but as every leader knows, when seasons give way to what’s next, the transition creates conditions that work directly against our ability to hear from God and make clear decisions.
Transitions are cloudy because they happen between what is known and what is next. What is known is often clear, but what’s next is typically new. New always has an element of unknown, and unknown is often unclear. It’s like driving our car into a dense fog. When you can barely see, it makes driving nearly impossible. If the fog grows dense enough, moving forward ceases to be a viable option.
In our car, we can always pull over and wait out the fog. But as a leader, waiting out the transition isn’t practical. And hence, our decision dilemma:
How do we make great decisions in cloudy conditions?
Before we answer that question, we should acknowledge that these transition decisions are often the most important decisions we as leaders make. This is an unfortunate, yet true reality. When change and transition occur, the organization and the people therein look to leadership for stability and direction. The decisions we make during these transitions set the pace, tone, and direction for the next season. These decisions are critical. And they are uncomfortable—because they are so cloudy.
As you’ve probably seen, too often leaders facing transition decisions freeze in the face of the cloudy conditions. The clouds reduce their clarity, causing them to do nothing. It’s as if they think it’s possible to wait out the fog on the side of the road. But not making a decision is a decision—an often disastrous decision. Transitions are, by nature, movement-oriented. Therefore, decisions must be made for the transition to complete and the next season to begin. The other option is to make our best guess in the face of the fog. But this isn’t a wise option, either. Guessing certainly doesn’t place you in the best position. Nobody wants to depend on luck for leadership success.
So back to the key question: as a leader, how do we make great decisions in cloudy conditions?
The answer is trusting in outside counsel.
But it’s not quite that simple. When we are in the middle of the transitional clouds, not only is our decision-making obscured, so is our ability to trust. But the Lord puts godly people in our lives for a reason. Those outside our transition will have a clarity we don’t have. Finding wise counsel is the easy part. The challenge is trusting what the counsel is seeing even when we can’t see it ourselves. The clouds inhibit our ability to clearly see both the decisions we face and what our counsel observes. And that’s why simply having wise counsel isn’t enough.
We know this is true because we can all remember times when we had incredible clarity in the midst of another’s cloudy situation. We offered our perspective and even attempted to explain our observations, but the person overwhelmed by the cloud couldn’t see clearly enough to decide on their own or to trust what we were seeing.
We have to fight against becoming the person in the cloud refusing to trust or listen to the counsel of those outside of our cloud.
Our first step as a leader is to ensure we have trustworthy, godly coaches who understand us and our organization before we ever need their coaching, before we find ourselves surrounded by a cloud of confusion. We prepare now for what we will need later. Moreover, we need to pre-decide that when we are in the middle of cloudy conditions, we will trust those who have clarity outside the fog—even when we can’t see what they see.
So, who are your coaches? If you don’t have any, make it a point to find them sooner than later. And when you do, begin to build trust. You, and all those you lead, will appreciate your intentionality when the clouds of transition form around your next big leadership decision.