Indecisive leaders can create a frustrating work environment where their team members feel unsure of their direction and goals.

A frustrated man saying, “I’m not indecisive, I just can’t decide “

Outside of occasionally being confused or annoyed by an indecisive leader, there are perhaps greater consequences.

So what do you stand to lose?

And most importantly, how do you identify a decisive leader that you want to follow or promote?

What’s at Stake

Bernie saying “I am once again asking that you understand what’s at stake”

When leaders are indecisive, everyone loses, from leaders who lose trust and resources to followers who experience stagnant careers and low morale.

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  • Indecisive leaders struggle to make decisions, leading to delays and missed business opportunities.

  • They can also create a climate of doubt and anxiety, impacting people’s well-being.

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  • Team members may lose eagerness to participate when they're constantly waiting for the next move.

  • They become unsure of priorities and hesitate to take action. This can lead others to question the leader's competence, making it difficult to achieve goals.

The Signs of Decisiveness

Scrabble tiles spelling out Decide, commit, repeat Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

A strong leader thrives in the face of choices. Here's how to spot them:

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1. Clear Communication

Decisive leaders explain their decisions concisely, leaving everyone on the same page and removing any confusion.

After careful consideration, we're moving forward with Project B. Here are the expectations for each team member.

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2. Timely Decisions

Decisive leaders understand the value of time. They gather necessary facts, weigh options, and make a call within a reasonable timeframe. 

We need to decide on a plan for the new product launch. Let's discuss the pros and cons of both options for the next 15 minutes and then vote.

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3. Taking Ownership

Decisive leaders stand behind their choices. They learn from mistakes and adjust course as needed. 

The sales figures for the new bags are lower than expected. I take responsibility for approving the initial plan. Let's brainstorm ways to improve.

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4. Empowering Others

Decisive leaders don't micromanage. They trust their team and delegate decisions within clear boundaries.

The customer service team has the best understanding of client needs. I trust you to address the technical issue according to your assessment.

Spot the Decisive Leader

A man saying, “Follow the leader.”

Do a quick check to see if you can identify the decisive leaders below:

A. A manager spends weeks analyzing every possible option before making a final decision.

B. A team lead clearly outlines the chosen course of action and explains the reasoning behind it.

C. A project leader readily admits a mistake and describes steps to rectify it.

D. A director hesitates to delegate tasks, fearing they won't be completed properly.


Which of the above examples show decisive leaders? Select all that apply:

So What Can You Do About It?

Looking to move past indecisiveness? These tips can help both leaders and future leaders to help move their careers forward.

A silhouette of people walking down a hill. One person walks ahead. Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

As a Leader

"Maybe Pile"

Create a list of undecided things to revisit later. This frees you to focus on urgent matters. Don't get stuck on every choice.

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Example: You’re finalizing the budget for an event. While details like invitation design are important, they can be revisited later.

Learn From Your Team

Find someone in the organization who makes good choices fast. Ask them how they do it. This can improve your own decisiveness.

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Example: During a brainstorming session for a new social media campaign, a team member suggests a creative influencer. Recognizing the potential, you incorporate this idea into the campaign.

Strike a Balance Between Humility and Self-promotion

When you make a decisive choice that leads to success, highlight that outcome in reports or present this to senior leaders. This demonstrates your readiness for promotion.

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Example: Your team identifies an issue delaying deliveries. You propose implementing new software and presenting to senior leadership, highlighting the potential cost savings and improved efficiency.

Ryan from The Office saying, “I want leadership.”

As a Team Member

Help Your Leader Decide

Gather info and present clear options for them. This makes it easier for them to choose.

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Example: Your boss needs a new supplier for sustainable packaging materials. After researching options, you suggest 3 suppliers with innovative, eco-friendly solutions at competitive prices.

Ask SMART Questions

Frame your questions to address a leader's concerns. This helps them pick the best option faster, and positions you as a valuable asset who can anticipate and address potential roadblocks.

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Your manager is considering two suppliers. Instead of simply asking which vendor is better, you frame a SMART question: "Considering our deadline, which supplier has the fastest installation and training?"

Volunteer for Job Rotation

Stepping outside your department to experience other leaders showcases your adaptability as an indicator of promotability.

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Example: You have great relationships with your company's suppliers but want to learn more. You volunteer to help out in another department when they need an extra hand for a big project.

If these tips don't change things, consider talking to your leader about your career goals. There may be a better fit for you within the company, or even outside of it.

Take Action

Being a leader isn’t easy and decisiveness may not come naturally.

Stephen Colbert on stage. He says, “Tag, you’re it!

Follow these steps to help you become more decisive and put them into practice this week at work:


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