The Five Styles of Leadership

An insightful and practical guide to decision making from the always-worth-a-read pages of Bob Lewis:

There are five basic decision styles: Authoritarian, consultative, consensus, delegation, and democracy (voting). Democracy is awful for everything except when peers have to decide something and can't come to agreement - ignore it in all other circumstances. When you delegate a decision, the delegatee has to choose one of the five decision styles, so it's recursive. Ignore it too (for the purposes of this discussion - delegation is one of the most important skills a manager can master).

That leaves authoritarian, consultative, and consensus decision-making. Each is good for a different type of situation. Reserve authoritarian decisions for when fast and stupid is better than slow and wise, and when it doesn't much matter whether anyone else commits to the result. Unless you think you're the only person with something intelligent to say on a subject, don't use it if you have the time to do something else.

Consensus decision-making is slow, expensive and not all that much smarter than authoritarian decision-making, because it requires compromises that jeopardize consistency in favor of buy-in. Reserve consensus for situations where buy-in is more important than anything else.

That leaves consultative decision-making, where you ask a lot of people their opinions, actually listen to them to become smarter than you were before (lip-service consultation is simply authoritarian decision-making that irritates everyone, including the decision-maker) and then make the decision yourself, letting everyone involved know what you decided and why.

Consultative decision-making is what you and your boss should rely on for most of your decisions.