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decision making stylesWe all make decisions every day. Some are only of minor importance such as; “Which socks am I going to wear today?” Some of the decisions you make will have an impact on your life for a long time to come. Some decisions will not only affect you, but will have far reaching implications for others, as well. If you are a business owner, or you manage employees, it is important to be aware of personal decision making style and how it affects the people you work with each day. Understanding how your decision making style affects others will help you to make the serious leadership calls that define a successful leader.

What is Decision Making?

This seems like an easy question, but take a moment and think about how you would answer. What process do you go through when making a decision? How about when you must make decisions as part of a group? Decision making can be defined as the cognitive process which results in the selection of a course of action among several alternative scenarios. Your decision making style can be intellectual or emotional, rational or irrational.

The rational decision maker follows four steps to making a decision.

  1. Identify the problem
  2. Generate multiple possible solutions for the problem
  3. Select the solution deemed most likely to solve the problem
  4. Implement the solution and evaluate its effectiveness

Now with that in mind, we then need to understand the decision making style that we most often employ and how that style affects the ultimate results.

Decision Making Styles

Decision making can be grouped into four main styles. The four styles are, Directive style, Analytic style, Conceptual style, and Behavioral style. Although no one fits completely into just one style category, you should have characteristics that fit, more or less, into one or two styles. Each style looks at decisions in a somewhat different way. Each style deals with processing the information on which the decision is based differently.

Directive Style

For the person that is a directive style decision maker, structure is very important. The directive decision maker is aggressive and expects immediate results. The typical directive style decision maker takes charge of a situation, makes quick decisions and expects those “under” him to carry out those decisions immediately, with no questions asked. They rely on their own information, knowledge, experience and judgment. The directive style decision maker tends to follow the rules and is an excellent verbal communicator. On the negative side of things, directive style decision makers act quickly and often don’t have all of the facts. They can be rash and fail to consider other options when addressing a problem. Directive decision makers focus on short-term results instead of long-term solutions.

Analytic Style

If your decision making style is analytic, you probably enjoy solving problems and puzzles. An analytic style decision maker is innovative and likes to analyze large amounts of data before making a decision. They are adaptable and can function well even under unique or challenging situations. Unfortunately, this style of decision making can be very slow and time consuming. An analytic decision maker wants to use direct observation, data, and facts when coming to a decision. They also tend to want to control every aspect of the process.

Conceptual Style

Conceptual style decision makers like to look at problems from an artistic angle. They are extremely creative and like to look for solutions that are outside the box. They are achievement oriented and like to think far into the future when making important decisions. A conceptual style decision maker will take risks and try to make decisions that take a broad vision in problem solving.

Behavioral Style

People who use a behavioral decision making style are very interested in making sure that everyone works well together and avoids conflict. They are very persuasive talkers and are good at getting people to see things their way. Behavioral decision makers like working with a group. Together they attempt to reconcile differences and negotiate a solution that is acceptable to all parties.

Group Decision Making Styles

Group decision making has its own set of models. Each decision making style affects the group in a unique way and has its own best uses. Knowing which style to use in a particular situation can be the difference between success and failure, especially in a business environment.

Autocratic Group Decision Making Style

An autocratic decision making style is one in which the leader takes complete control and ownership of the decision. The leader is completely responsible for the outcome that results from the decision, whether that outcome is positive or negative. The autocratic leader does not ask for suggestions or ideas from the team and decides based on their own internal information and perception of the situation.

Using this method produces a very fast decision for which the leader is personally responsible. In an emergency situation, the autocratic style is often the best choice. The disadvantages can sometimes include less than desired effort from the people that must carry out the decision. If an employee or group member is affected by the decision, but was not included in the decision making process, morale may suffer. If the result of the decision is not positive, members of the group may begin to feel resentful and believe they could have done a better job themselves. This can cause the leader to lose credibility.

Democratic Group Decision Making Style

Democratic group decision making can be useful when a quick decision is needed utilizing a minimum amount of group participation. In this style of group decision making the leader gives up ownership and control of a decision and allows the group to vote. As the name implies, majority vote will decide what action is taken.

The disadvantage of this style can be a lack of individual responsibility. There is no one person that can claim responsibility for the decision reached by the group. Since there is not a requirement for a consensus it opens up the possibility that someone will deny responsibility because they voted against the group’s decision.

Collective Group Decision Making Style

In this style of group decision making, the leader will involve the members of the organization in all aspects of the decision making process, but makes the final decision alone. The leader deliberately asks and encourages group members to participate by giving their ideas, perceptions, knowledge, and information concerning the situation. This brings to light other perspectives on the situation although the leader maintains complete control of the final decision.

In this group decision making style, the leader is completely responsible for the decision and the results, positive or negative. There are advantages to this style, such as the involvement and participation of the group. This style of group decision making requires the leader to be an excellent communicator, as well as an excellent listener. This gives the leader an accurate understanding of the situation and allows for better overall decision making. The disadvantages collective group decision making are that this can be a very slow decision making process and it offers less security due to the number of people involved in the process.

Consensus Group Decision Making Style

In the consensus decision making style, the leader gives up complete control of the decision. The whole group is totally involved and invested the decision. There is no individual responsibility for the leader using this type of group decision making. This style differs from the democratic style because everyone must agree on the decision. If there is not total agreement by everyone the decision becomes democratic.

This type of group decision making fosters a strong group commitment because everyone involved has a stake in the decisions success. By involving everyone completely this decision making style has a high probability of success. It is, however, a very slow process and it can be difficult for a group to learn to work together in this manner. This is a useful decision making style for a group that will be together for a long period of time such that the members can develop a strong, long term, professional relationship.

How Can Understanding Decision Making Styles Help?

By understanding your personal decision making style, it is possible to make adjustments according to the situation and results you are working towards. Strong decision making requires the ability to assess the situation, determine the best style of decision making, and utilize that style to come to a positive solution. These are leadership skills that will benefit you both personally and professionally. By consistently using the correct style of decision making, you will prove yourself to be a valuable asset as a leader.

Page Last Updated: February 2020

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