Decisions, decisions.

Posted on 20th January, 2015

I have just finished reading Boris’ brilliant biography of Churchill.


One of the (many) striking things about our wartime Prime Minister was the extent to which he was ready to make decisions; especially the hard ones.


The Mayor of London rates this characteristic very highly. Indeed, I remember some years ago, in a wide-ranging interview he gave to the Evening Standard, he himself was quoted as saying:


“People don’t care what decision you make, they just bloody well want a decision”


It’s an unusual – and somewhat risky – thing for someone whose job depends on votes to say, but is he right? And what does this mean for agencies?


A chap called Marcus Buckingham, in his book, The One Thing You Need To Know, argues that the number one priority of leaders should be to offer clarity.


Indeed, leaders have a duty, he continues, to set out beyond a shadow of a doubt where they stand, and what they will or will not tolerate. This duty of clarity is so acute because it is what those being led want. And they want this, says Buckingham, more than anything else at all – including liking or agreeing with whatever is being said.


In my experience, this clarity is in very short supply in agency-land. And the effects are obvious, at every level: from pre-pitch tail-chasing to the juvenile tediousness of agency politics to the continued tolerance of manifestly bad, if not criminal, behaviour.


Take a second to consider the most effective leader you can think of – business, political, even social. Is that person clear? Indeed, would you go so far as to say that being clear – even when that clarity drives you crazy – is one of their defining characteristics?


In making and implementing clear decisions, one way or another, leaders set the agenda. It may not be an agenda that others like, but at least it gives them something to react to. Even die-hard opponents of an idea ultimately tend to want a clear decision: it gives them something tangible to be “against”.


Dithering has never had a good press. Take a decision, good or bad, and one way or another you set the agenda. 


For business leaders, this is a core responsibility – to ourselves if no one else.


- this piece first kindly published by Campaign Magazine