This is Leadership with Richard Kwarteng Ahenkorah: Leader dilemma


One good decision today may not be the best of decisions tomorrow.

Leaders go through daily challenges in making decisions. Some dread the process. To look to the left or to the right leaves leaders in dilemma. One big worry for leaders is the fact that one good decision today may not be the best of many decisions tomorrow. This is a fact. Heraclitus said: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man”.

Leaders go through self-experiences and every experience is a lesson. This is the main reason some leaders dawdle to decide. Yes, it is good to be a quick thinker. Yet, it’s prudent to be meticulous – somewhat slow, and getting decisions right. It is logic to make good decisions out of bad options. Like morality, choosing between right and wrong shouldn’t be a difficult process. This is obviously a no brainer.

Leaders would rather have challenges with dilemma situations where they have to choose between two ‘rights’. Most of the time, decisions compete and leaders have to decide anyway. Sometimes values and priorities contest a leader’s time and resources. What makes the decision process difficult is the fact that the entire team would be watching keenly, and this heightens the degree of dilemma in making one decision.

As a matter of fact, making the right decision between two rights is also about leader ethics and principles, and not necessarily about priorities. Kidder, in Hughes et al (2015) acknowledged four shared ethical dilemmas: Truth versus loyalty, Individual versus community, Short-term versus long-term, and Justice versus mercy.

A good leader may be inclined to please the employer at the expense of the institution. The truth would be that the institution may be struggling. But in the name of loyalty, and because some leaders would be willing to sell their conscience, they find themselves in a dilemma. Leaders sometimes focus on themselves at the expense of an entire team. Some also forget about long-term needs and deliberately focus on short-term goals, and there are instances where leaders overlook wrongdoings to breed cancerous teams for organisations.

In all these, Kidder once again offered three approaches to deal with ethical dilemmas when they come up (Hughes et al 2015). Use the ends-based thinking, rule-based thinking or the care-based thinking depending on the situation to fix dilemma issues. With the ends-based approach, leaders should focus on decisions that would be best for the majority of people. Some call it the utilitarianism principle.

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