Conundrum of decision-making in leadership

Since it is part of nature to analyse and reason both consciously and subconsciously, it is certainly worth our while to consider our thought processes during analysis and reasoning leading to decision making. More often than not those in leadership are confronted with situations requiring them to reach a certain decision and or conclusion which in a way might positively or negatively impact on the overall running of the organisation.

Robert Mandeya :People management issueS

Understanding reasoning
Given the foregoing, it is necessary to carefully study ways in which we reason as this will help us to become more accurate and able in this aspect of thinking. To begin with, let us consider how a child who plays with a box of paints may form a conclusion on colour mixing.

He may, for example, mix yellow and red together and get orange. If he tries mixing the two colours a few more times and each time he gets the same result, he thus inevitably concludes that orange can be obtained by mixing yellow with red.

Inductive reasoning in workplace
The way the boy forms this conclusion typifies a normal form of our reasoning trends. It is called induction. In this analogy we find that the boy begins with a particular state of affairs — the various instances of his mixing yellow and red paints — and proceeds to the general conclusion: yellow and red when mixed become orange.

Similarly, in leadership we think in this inductive manner very frequently. Most of our beliefs or convictions about general states of affairs — eg worker X is slow in accomplishing tasks or meeting deadlines, worker Y is most reliable and efficient in doing things — are formed as a result of our experiences with particular states or occurrences at the workplace.

Deductive reasoning

Another method of reasoning is deduction. Deductive reasoning is the very converse of the inductive one. In deduction we argue logically from general states of affairs to the particular. Thus going back to the example of the boy; the boy who knows that red and yellow make orange will, when he needs orange but lacks the tube of it, will ultimately decide to mix the two colours to come up with the orange colour.

Similarly, from our general belief that unripe fruit is sour, we would, on being given an unripe apple, conclude that it must be sour. Likewise, most of us would, on having a choice between a man and woman, hesitate to ask the woman to help us carry a load because we believe that women are the weaker sex.

Beliefs vs reasoning
As leaders we obviously make deductive conclusions everyday. But how can we be sure that a conclusion we draw in a deduction is correct? You’ll find that the conclusion is logically implied by our original beliefs and premises. A premise about a particular class of things, say green apples, can logically enable us to form a conclusion about any one member of that class, that is, a particular green apple, and not things of other kinds.

It goes without saying that the soundness of deductive arguments also depends on the truth or falsity of the basic premises. False premises will, if the deductive process is correct or valid, inevitably produce false conclusions. If the premises are true, and the deductive process is not faulty, the conclusions will be true. What is the implication of this scenario in leadership?

Authenticating our reasoning

The question that arises now, is how can we be sure that the premises of our deduction are true? That, of course, depends on how we form the premises. To be honest, it is difficult to be certain about premises that are formed out of mere beliefs or personal taste or preferences. One thing certain here is that premises that arise out of previous experience i.e through the inductive process, can to a large extent, be evaluated.

The soundness of a general statement made from induction, depends on the number of particular cases tasted. The greater the number of experiences a person has of a process producing a particular result, the greater can be the confidence we have in the accuracy of his statement concerning the process and result.

Inductive and deductive reasoning

A man who tests only three apples from a box of a hundred apples and concludes that the box contains only bad apples cannot be relied on. But our beliefs that all living things need air has a very high possibility of being correct because throughout the history of the earth there has never been an instance of any being living without air.

Deduction and induction are, in spite of their limitations, very important to human welfare. Constructive development of all fields of human endeavour depends on, among other things, our making of full use of these types of reasoning. Whilst the inductive method enables us to obtain basic empirical facts, the deductive method enables us to get the most out of our existing scope of known “facts’”

Implications to leadership
Therefore in leadership, where we are involved with different people and processes we are compelled to begin with the inductive method of reasoning to reach certain conclusions, and then deduce from these conclusions additional information. Leadership should not be the end in itself but a means to an end especially where people are involved.

Much human misunderstanding and blunder arises because many people are not aware of the fact that their trends of thoughts and thus their communication process are frequently muddled, illogical and fallacious. Leaders must be clear about their thought processes and how they arrive at certain decisions.

Mandeya is a certified executive leadership coach, corporate education trainer and management consultant and founder of Leadership Institute of Research and Development (LiRD). — robert@lird.co.zw/ or info@lird.co.zw, Facebook: @lirdzim and Mobile/WhatsApp: +263 719 466 925.

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