The One Essential Habit of Every Effective Leader

This is a guest post by Jeff Goins. Jeff is a writer who works for Adventures in Missions. You can follow him on Twitter and download a free copy of his eBook The Writer’s Manifesto. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

I once heard Dave Ramsey share the secret to his effective leadership and decision-making strategy: ”I make a decision, and if it’s the wrong one, I make another one.”

Standing Man with Two Choices - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #17906987

Photo courtesy of ©

Here was my thought process in reaction to that statement:

  • That’s ludicrous.
  • That’s reckless. 
  • That’s… genius.

At the time, Dave knew something about leadership that I was just beginning to learn: Great leaders are effective, not because they know all the answers, but because they have the tenacity to act. Leadership, as it turns out, is really the act of making intentional decisions and accepting responsibility for them.
I always loved that biblical story of Joshua, who stood before his fellow countrymen at a crossroads in his nation’s history and admonished them to “choose this day whom you will serve…” Joshua knew, as all great leaders know, that life is about intentional choices. And the failure to make a decision is, in fact, a choice in itself.

The word decide in its Latin root literally means, “to cut off.” In our culture, nobody wants to cut off anything. We are rife with procrastination. In fact, in some cases we reward it. While there’s nothing wrong with 80 percent off a plane ticket to Cabo San Lucas, this is telling of how we make (or rather, don’t make) decisions.

Many organizations have a decision-deficiency syndrome. We have leaders who hesitate. They waffle and wait, hoping for a better opportunity. Let’s be honest: you and I do this, as well. And it’s killing our leadership.

If you want to be a better leader, resolve to be a better decision-maker. It will revolutionize your organization, inspire your team, and liberate you from the constant worry of the possibility of a better opportunity coming along.

Here are three scenarios in which you should make a decision right now:

  1. You don’t need more information. You have everything you need to know to make the right decision. Sure, more information could make itself available if you wait, but if you’re honest, you don’t need it. You have the essentials, and nothing monumental would change that.
  2. More information won’t come. Sometimes, you’re just stalling. In fact, most of the time, this is the case. We’re afraid of consequences, criticism, or failure. So we hesitate. But really, this is just wasting time.
  3. Something will suffer if you wait. More information might present itself, but the cost of waiting is greater than the cost of acting now and paying the consequences later. Your hesitation may be distracting you or keeping you from other work or simply frustrating your colleagues.

You can’t do this with every decision, but you can probably do it with more than you realize. Most indecisiveness comes from fear. It’s time to move beyond that and become the leader you were meant to be.

Something shifts in your paradigm when you resolve to be more decisive. You stop letting yourself be ruled by anxiety and apprehension. You become bolder and more confident. At first, it may seem scary, but this is the key to being a leader worth following.

Sure, you will occasionally make the wrong choice, but you will never have to be afraid again. You will never catch yourself, waiting for more information that isn’t necessary to making a difference today. 

It’s time to decide.

Question: What’s one decision you’ve been putting off? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Brandon Weldy

    I do not like to be wrong. In fact just to say that I don’t like it is not near strong enough. I always think I need to be making perfect decisions because I am a leader. Deep in my mind I know this is wrong but I listen to that other voice. So I gather information, and then I wait, and I gather the same information, and wait some more. Well today I have blocked out some time to make some decisions.
    Every time I read your stuff I am challenged. Thanks Jeff.

    • Jeff Goins

      Thanks for your honesty, Brandon. Here’s a new wait to think about it: Waiting is wrong. If you wait — in the sense of delaying and stalling the inevitable — you ARE wrong. Don’t do that. ;)

      • Brandon Weldy

        I really like that! Thanks!

  • Tamara Vann

    Great piece and very thought provoking! Decisions have to be made. If they’re wrong – learn from them and move on! The same goes for customer service. To build a culture that works, you have to crack a few eggs and get past some obstacles, as this video suggests:

    • Jeff Goins

      Thanks, Tamara.

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  • meeklabs

    In other words, we need to get off our butts.  Its a lesson the best entrepreneurs take.  Make a decision, if it doesn’t work, learn from the results, make another decision and continue moving forward.

    • Jeff Goins

      Yep. Sounds like you’ve got the right idea.

  • Wsp10862

    Great article, my two partners suffer a little from indecisiveness, but for different reasons. One for fear of offending someone the decision may effect and the other for fear of upsetting some plan he has for the future. Do you have any ideas for an executive coaching seminar/retreat that I could offer up to them as continuing education. It needs to be christ centered if possible. Thanks for your weekly posts, it helps me every week. Angela Thomas says hello, I am her husband Scott

    • Jeff Goins

      Thanks. Good question. Mike might have some ideas, but I would recommend John Maxwell.

  • Samantha

    While have become pretty agile in applying this to business settings, it is in my personal life that I falter at being my own leader. I hesitate on the most insignificant decisions for the exact reasons you outline here. It is excruciatingly frustrating, but true. Yet, the times when I do pull the trigger I find that I am more content, and hopelessly optimistic so even if a ‘better deal’ did come along, I am very good at looking the other way and ignoring it :) At this time, I can honestly say there are no decisions I am putting off-I have taken care of them over the last month and it feels great!

    • Jeff Goins

      That’s excellent, Samantha!

  • James Pinnick

    Wow Jeff,

    Thanks so much. GREAT POST!

    Author-The Last Seven Pages

    • Jeff Goins

      Thanks, James. Appreciate it.

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  • Mark Jordan Murray

    Good leaders lead with the heart of a servant and serve with the heart of a King.
    -Bill Johnson

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  • Madam

    commiting suicide :-)

  • Jennie Turton

    This article was amazing! Having experienced a crossroads where I was unable to make a decision, I totally resonated with what you said about “not needing more information.” The truth was that I had all the information I needed within the first week of contemplating this decision. It took me FOUR years to actually make the decision! Wow! I realize now that people did suffer because of my procrastination and fear…many people, including me! 
    Having made it out of that season by God’s grace, I now see clearly the wear and tear I put myself through by not deciding quickly. I learned a lot from that experience of several years ago. Now, as a  christian life coach I get to help others navigate similar decisions. I’ll be using this article as a reference for some of my clients, who even now are torn about a decision they need to make. Thank you for this strong encouragement, Jeff! I’m grateful for your insight!

  • Chef Tamia


    -I don’t know what else to say, so I’ll leave it with that. I love this blog!

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  • TheExecutiveCoach

    This is an excellent post! Even not making a decision, is a decision – that’s what I often say to my clients and often they never saw it that way.

  • Rachel8007

    Great article, I think the worst thing you can do in ANY situation is nothing.

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  • Leavemessage

    Great stuff! Simple, concise and to the point…. thanks

  • Joshuawannabe

    Christian leaders and Christians in general sometimes mistake having patience with the process of decisiveness. Because of that mindset, we often fail to make decisions (particularly regarding relationships and and leadership over employees). This failure to act is mistakenly viewed as a Christian virtue. That critical balance of boldness vs. patience can only be achieved with supernatural guidance. Thanks for your reminder.

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