“Pop Quiz, Hot Shot – What Do You Do?”

Classic Movie Line from Speed (1994):

“Pop quiz, hotshot. There’s a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?”

The clock is ticking, and leadership matters.  In instances like this, there are actual right answers and wrong answers on what to do next.  This is definitely not the time for the leader to form a committee and create a powerpoint presentation to compare and contrast the options.  This is a time-driven decision moment.

In your role as an educational leader, making the right decision matters.  There are many theories and approaches to the decision-making process, and I am constantly approached by educational learners on how best to approach certain decisions.  In my role coaching others, I continue to reflect on the Vroom-Yetton Decision Model as a guide to others as well as for my work as a leader.

The Vroom-Yetton Model derives from a situational leadership theory that posits the “best” style of leadership is contingent on a particular situation or circumstance.  Based on a series of questions, five styles of leadership are derived ranging from lightly autocratic (AI) to highly democratic (GII).

There are times when a leader needs to invoke the Autocratic I (AI) style by making the sole decision and informing others on the decision.  And, there are instances when the leader facilitates team dialogue for a shared decision based on input and dialogue from the team.

While you could conduct an internet search on Vroom and Yetton to find leading questions and “decision trees” to help you determine which style to invoke for a particular decision, the purpose of this post is to cause you to understand the broad tension in decision-making processes that act like a teeter-totter between time-driven and team-development decisions.

And, to know that there is no silver bullet that works for all situations.

For decisions needing immediate action, a leader may need to make an autocratic decision.  And, that is leadership.

For a larger decision that may affect many people, gathering input and allowing others to be part of the decision-making process provide connection and unity.  And, this is also leadership.  This will take more time, but it is the trade-off that you may need to consider.

As you grow in your leadership practices and reflect on past experiences, think about the following questions as a guide in your next decisions:

  1. Does the decision need to be right now?
  2. Do you really understand the problem?
  3. Do you have all of the information?
  4. Is there an opportunity for you to build your team up through this process?
  5. How can you best ensure, or increase, buy-in for the decision, regardless of the style you choose?
  6. What are the positive and negative effects that will come after the decision is made?

Through practice and self reflection on previous decisions, it gets easier.

For me, the greatest lesson in this theory model is that building your team should always be considered in every decision.  While you may not always have the luxury of time to involve them all the time, it should always be part of your filtering process as a leader in the development of the team.

Finally, no matter what, even the right decision isn’t a good one without healthy relationships…

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