By Bryan Orr

It was April of 2006 in Washington D.C. and George W. Bush gave a press conference outside the White House. His Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, was coming under fire by the press and some military leadership. Many were calling for him to step down or for the President to remove him from the position. The question was posed to the President if he was listening to those who felt that Donald Rumsfeld was no longer fit to be in the position.

The President became visibly agitated. He stated, “I listen to the voices, I read the paper” and then finished with “But I’m the decider, and I decide what’s best. And what’s best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense.”

The term “The Decider” has henceforth joined “misunderestimated” and “I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family” as one of the most notable “Bushisms” of his presidency.


If you run a business you know how he felt. In the moment, when the pressure is on and all eyes are on you and YOU KNOW you don’t have all the answers, you must decide. What do you do?

1. Procrastinate

When in doubt… PUNT. We have all met leaders like this. When something is hard or scary or risky or emotionally charged they usually just wait and hope it goes away. If you are a procrastinator it will be pretty easy to find out. Ask your staff and those closest to you “Do I put off hard decisions longer than I should?”

Be prepared for the answer, and this time ACT on it, will you?

2. Abdicate

There is a fine line between being a good manager who allows your staff  the freedom to make decisions, and an abdicating manager who does not take appropriate responsibility for your organization.

If you find that you simply put hard tasks or decisions onto your staff and then never hear about it again… you are likely abdicating

3. Dictate

This is the leader who can send a mean email stating “How things will be from now on” and is totally willing to make a knee jerk decision no matter how measly their understanding of the issue is. Dictators use their experience and their emotions or “gut” to decide, they rarely listen and often work well in very small operations but fall apart as the business grows.

4. Delegate and Execute

Many decisions cannot be delegated, but the decision making process can be collaborative and prompt. A good delegating leader will follow a process similar to this to make hard decisions:

  • Speak to the people who understand the problem best. Ask probing questions and listen more than you talk.
  • Create a “by when” deadline for the decision and ensure that everyone affected gets a chance to have a voice before that time.
  • Ask your most trusted team members what they would do if it was up to them and listen.
  • Whenever possible, delegate the execution of the decision to the person whose vision most closely matches the final decision.
  • Make it clear that the “buck stops with you” and that you back the decision completely while still allowing your team member to execute the particulars.
  • You take any blame, and deflect the successful results onto the person who executed the plan.
  • Keep everyone involved accountable with “by when” objectives of their own creation and consistent reporting that they are responsible to provide you with.

In the end, you are “The Decider.” The people who work under your management need leadership from you, but the EXECUTION is what makes a decision a success or a failure. When you delegate and communicate effectively you will find that not only do your decisions improve, so does your team.