“Decision-Making for Life and Leadership: An
by Wm. M. Pinson, Jr., Th.D. with Lloyd Elder, Th.D.
adapted from SkillTrack® Vol. 10 - Decision-Making
A farmer hired a person to help with chores. The farmer told the hired
hand to chop four cords of wood, thinking it would take a couple of days.
In two hours the man was through. He then told him to clean out the barn,
a chore expected to take the rest of the week. The hired hand was finished
in a day. Amazed at the hired hand's efficiency, he took him to a huge pile
of potatoes and told him to separate them into three piles: one for discard,
one for planting, and one for sale. He thought the task would take a couple
of hours. In two hours the farmer checked on the man and he found him sitting
in front of the pile with no progress made. He asked the hired hand what the
problem was. He replied, “Work I don't mind, but these decisions are
- Life, Work, and Leadership
Many people feel that way about decisions. They may not like to make them,
so as a result they know little about the process of decision-making. When
faced by a decision, they procrastinate, make bad decisions, or simply refuse
to make decisions. Decision-making indeed is hard work. However, we cannot
escape making decisions. In fact, decisions determine the destiny of our lives.
They are unavoidable and life shaping. The Bible begins with the account of
the decision faced by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden--to eat the forbidden
fruit or not. We still suffer the consequence of their decision. The Bible
records both good decisions and bad and the consequences of each.
- Servant Leader Decisions
Servant leaders make many decisions, always seeking to improve
their skills. Decisions affect others: individuals, families, businesses,
governments, churches--in fact every dimension of life. The decisions that
we make reveal what is truly important to us--not what we say
is important but what is really important. Because decision-making
affects every aspect of life, we all need to make the best decisions we can
possibly make. These articles are designed to help you make good decisions,
decisions particularly that relate to your personal life, to small groups
of various kinds, and to congregation members. Servant questions include:
1) How can I better serve others through decision-making? 2) What do others
expect of me as a servant decision maker? 3) What do I need most to get out
of a study of decision-making?
These articles are not about secular decision-making, although some of the
principles from that realm apply to all decisions. It certainly is not a description
of the highly technical, statistically oriented type of decisions used in
manufacturing, financial forecasting, and the like. Though again, some of
the insights from this aspect of decision-making are helpful in all types
of decision-making, including Christian ministry.
Our focus is toward servant leaders in churches and church-related entities.
They deal with the knowledge and skills helpful for decision-making
by such servant leaders, focusing on distinctly Christian insights
to the process of decision-making. The leaders apply these in primary areas:
personal and life decisions, small group decisions, and congregational decisions.
The starting place for all of us in our days and ways is the wisdom of the
- Prov. 9:10--The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and
knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
- Psalms 16:11--You have made known to me the path of life; you
will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your
- Matthew 7:13-14--Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the
gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter
through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to
life, and only a few find it.
What Is Decision-Making?
Definitions abound regarding decision-making. Yet most set forth essentially
the same concept. Here are some examples:
Ten Characteristics of Great Decision Makers
Glossary: Decide/decision: to make up your mind
--from the Latin, literally, "to cut off from”; to arrive at
a solution that ends uncertainty; to select as a course of action; to
bring to a definitive end; to induce to come to a choice; to make a choice
judgment. Synonyms: decide, determine, settle, rule, resolve. (from
several current dictionaries)
Decision-making is the process of identifying a set of feasible alternatives,
and from these, choosing a course of action. . . . Decisions are judgments
which directly affect a course of action. [Dunham and Pierce, Management,
Making effective decisions involves taking six sequential steps: 1. Classifying
the problem 2. Defining the problem 3. Specifying the answer to the problem
4. Deciding what is “right,” rather than what is acceptable,
in order to meet the boundary conditions 5. Building into the decision
the action to carry it out 6. Testing the validity and effectiveness of
the decision against the actual course of events. [Harvard Business
Review, 2001, p.2-3]
Article Series Objective and Content
- have logical, analytical abilities
- express intuitive, emotional qualities
- have high tolerance for ambiguity
- follow well-ordered priorities, values
- can build consensus around a decision
- avoid stereotypes, dark side of chunking
- are resilient in style, methods, solutions
- understand both hard and soft input
- are realistic--avoid blind trust
- avoid decision minefields: “It worked in Oshkosh.”
[source misplaced--help us with this if you can]
Decision-Making for Life and Leadership is presented in a series of
articles with a carefully chosen objective: “for servant leaders
in Christian ministry to develop and sharpen decision-making skills for life
and leadership by exploring proven processes, principles, and practices.”
Two dozen, or so, articles are presented under four major headings:
Decision-Making Leadership Grid
- Decision-making: process and tools
- Personal and life choices
- Decision-making by small groups
- When the congregation decides
This subject outline could have been outlined as follows: I--Routine
choices; II--Value judgments; III--Operational actions; IV--Strategic
directives; V--Crisis responses. Or, another possible outline could
be: 1--Missed decisions; 2--Bad decisions; 3--Fair decisions; 4--Good
decisions; 5--Great decisions.
Many decisions are linked, or sequential. Other decisions are choices
among options: this or that? now or then? good or best?
The following grid is one of several ways in these articles to assess how
you participate in decision-making and how your skill development and performance
could be affected. Please refer to it often throughout these articles. Note
that it is limited to only two major factors to assess your style: your involvement
and group participation.
© Lloyd Elder and Associates, Inc.
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© 2006 servantleaderstoday.com; hosted and copyrighted
by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at www.servantleaderstoday.com
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership