leadership, decision making, influence level

Fifty-one percent of any leader’s job is to use  their influence to develop new leaders. How do we, as leaders, proactively grow and empower emerging leaders? A chief means is to have a deliberate process which serves to increase a leader’s decision space.

What Is Decision Space?

A leader’s decision space is the amount of unbounded room, or space, he or she has to make a decision on behalf of the organization without getting approval from superiors.

Why Create Decision Space?

If you do not have leaders emerging from beneath your leadership, you will be forever doomed to be the determiner of all decisions. Unless you are power hungry tyrant, no one wants to be the organizational bottleneck, slowing progress and profits. Every decision you make requires mental energy. By delegating decisions, you free up your own decision space to make the key decisions which shape the overall direction of your company, business, or organization.

When you have a potential leader who is new to your organization, you must intentionally create a space for them in which they are completely authorized and resourced to make a decision. Otherwise, a true leader will see himself or herself as nothing more than a lackey and become frustrated. This will quickly result in them looking for employment elsewhere or thinking, “I am nothing more than a hired hand, so I will give minimal effort to help the organization succeed.”

Starting the Process

With a new leader, the decision space will need to be incredibly small, at times even an “either this or that” option. They do not yet have the organizational wisdom to make large decisions. For example, if you are the leader of your organization’s marketing department, you might need something designed by a rookie graphic artist. You can tell them, “Here is the template we use. You are free to change this color or this one picture. Here are the resources you have available.”

The next step is one that often neglected by busy leaders who like to give an order and move on to something else. You must declare the WHY statement. It is imperative you tell someone to whom you are delegating, “Here is why we do it this way.” This statement allows to them to know the reason behind a certain method or action. When an emerging leader begins to know the why behind an action, it allows them to start thinking with same values and purposes of the organization.

It is important that the decision space given to new leaders have clearly stated boundaries. As they might be new to your organization or even the workforce, they do not yet possess the insights of your personal journey and the organizational culture that shapes decisions. As they become more and more a part of the organization, when engaged in the decision space process, they will begin to take on your values and culture. Giving a leader too vast a decision space, too soon, can result in a decision that counters a value. This can be a disaster for your company, causing you a degraded brand, or worse, a public relations nightmare and possible client/customer loss.  

Increasing the Space

Each time an emerging leader successfully carries out a project, their decision space should grow. They should be given slightly broader boundaries to make the three crucial leadership decisions:

  1. What to do next.
  2. When and how to do it.
  3. How many resources to apply.

You should provide coaching and continue providing a clear statement of the why behind it all.

After repeating this process with them, they will soon grow into a large decision space where they are making major decisions that align with your organizational goals and direction. More importantly, they will have a clean understanding of how to start raising up new leaders by repeating the process you modeled--giving these new leaders a small decision space and telling them the why. Soon, you will find you are developing leaders for your organization at a multiplicative rate.

The Benefits

Because each emerging leader is coached to understand the why of the decision, they will carry the vision of the overall organization in their own decisions. The blessing of this process is that you, the leader, will face less of the we-don’t-do-it-that-way/what-were-you-thinking headaches that occur because an emerging leader makes a dumb decision. Being deliberate about the decision space process ensures each leader is planted and grown in the cultural soils of your organization’s values and norms. And though they might not generate the exact solution to a problem as you might, their solution will line up with the organization’s overall vision because they understand the WHY of it all. Adding more sharp minds to create diverse solutions is always a good thing for your organization.

Soon you’ll have an army of capable leaders. This development will let top-level leaders focus more intently on decisions that determine organization direction than merely getting-tasks-done decisions. This always allows for the growth and betterment of your company or organization.

Here are some questions for your consideration.

How are you using your influence to grow emerging leaders?

How can you be more intentional about increasing each of your leader’s decision space?

How well do you state the WHY behind each act of delegation?

How can you give every person under your leadership a bit more decision space this week?



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From regional manager to international executive with quadruple the pay, Karen Keller’s unique blueprint carefully outlined the step-by-step process for creating high-impact influence and let me know when I was being influenced in a way that didn’t serve me.
Lloyd Moore
Global Director Supplier Quality & Development - Lear Corporation – South Carolina