Wise Judgement: You Can Only Choose One

1. Your house is on fire.
2. You have a spouse (in their 20s like you) and three children. John is five and in perfect health. Susan is one and in perfect health. JoAnn is three and has a rare blood disease that prevents her from walking.
3. You can only save yourself and one person.
4. Who do you save?

This extreme dilemma is tragic, no matter the outcome. It also serves to highlight five decision-making elements high-level leaders must understand how to deal with.

1. The facts can't be changed.
Reality is the home field of leaders great at making critical decisions. Things are complicated enough: creating a reality-distortion field isn't prudent. This requires facing the hard truths head-on, being disciplined to gather facts from all necessary input streams and not using assumptions or (even experienced) opinions to fill in too many gaps.

2. Every decision has a downside.
Decisions create tension and silos. High-level leaders are naturally equipped, trained and/or emotionally prepared to deal with both the upsides and the downsides of decisions. Be ready to handle them by expecting the downsides, preparing accordingly and not letting fear sway the decisions that must be made.

3. Some people will benefit from your decision and some won't.
Trying to keep everyone happy will not fully satisfy anyone. Many times tough decisions involve picking sides. Success in this area requires being diplomatic with both. Don't get too cozy with the winning side and talk openly and directly with the other side. You can't expect to have the losing side to like you right then, but you should strive to demonstrate your logic and reasons to earn (or rebuild) respect, trust and credibility.

4. Your beliefs/values will guide you.
One of the most important benefits of being clear, resolute and convicted of your beliefs and values is they provide a firm guide for critical decisions. Of course, the secret is to be disciplined to follow your beliefs and values, but you must have them first. Set beliefs and values that you firmly believe in and that can serve as an inspiration for those around you. High-level leaders don't have the luxury of following mediocre beliefs and values.

5. As the leader, you carry the burden of making the decisions.
True leadership is not easy.  It is demanding, challenging and weighs heavy.  Accept this burden and take it for those who can not.  Never use the high-pressure as an excuse for poor decisions and never hold others ransom with it. Carry it freely as the price you pay for stepping up and arming yourself with the traits, skills and expertise necessary to make the tough decisions for those around you.

(What decision would you make in the situation above and why?  Comment below.)

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