Good decision making skills - a leadership must

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Good decision making is an essential skill for effective leadership.

If you can learn to make timely and well-considered decisions, then you can lead your team to spectacular and well-deserved success. However, making poor decisions may run the risk of failure and your time as a leader could be brutally short.

The act of deciding is to make the correct choice from several options. Of course, seldom is there ever an undisputed best or right decision since most feasible alternatives have strengths and weaknesses. Understanding the art of deciding is therefore, vital.

Fortunately, making quality decisions does not need to be hit or miss. I've relied on these five considerations to shape my past decisions and I trust they'll serve you just as well.

First, be skeptical, not cynical. Being cynical means rejecting things out-right. Being skeptical means looking at things and assessing whether or not you really believe those things - having a questioning attitude and an open mind before accepting [or rejecting] things as fact. Being skeptical also means being critical in a positive manner and perhaps looking for a better answer.

Second, spend time to reflect. Many of the decisions we regret later in life were often made in a split-second: the words you wish you could put back in your mouth, the decisions to stay somewhere you shouldn't be, the time you didn't stand up for something you believe, etc.

Reflect before you make a choice and consider the implications and the second and third order effects of your decisions. A few moments spent wisely in contemplation may save a lifetime of regret for an impulse decision.

Third, examine your motivation for doing things. It is often more important than what you do. All of us will make mistakes. Honest mistakes made for the right reasons can, for the most part, be underwritten and accepted. The closer you analyze your motivation, the better your decision will be.

Fourth, think through your priorities in life. Everyone has priorities, whether or not they have consciously decided what those priorities are. These priorities influence where you invest your time, energy and, ultimately, reflect in one's actions.

Fifth, understand the meaning of service. As Airmen, we should always consider whom we are serving. The implication is that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. "Mission first" extends beyond our unit to the highest levels of the military and to the ideals that our country stands for.

If you have been "skeptical," you've come to your decision with an open and analytical mind. If you have been "reflective," you've considered the impact and effects of your decision. If you have considered your "motivation," "prioritized" your values, and judged your choice against the best traditions of "service," then you'll know the impact of your decision on greater things than yourself. You are ready to execute your decision with confidence.