As a leader that would have to take some tough decisions in your leadership journey, how do you go about it? The Americans gave us some lesson on this recently. For the past few weeks, I have been glued to the Senate debate and discussions in the US on the Syria crisis as the US president sought the approval of congress and the American people for a 'targeted' air strike against the Syrian Government because of the use of chemical weapon on its people.
Without getting into the contents or the right and wrong of the debate, the whole process provided some interesting lessons on leadership, decision making process and ability to influence some pretty tough people! Secretary John Kerry defended the Presidents position and came under some very tough grilling, you have to admire his ability to stay calm although he nearly lost his cool a couple of times.
The approval that President Obama was seeking from Congress was a tough one; asking a nation who is undergoing economic recovery to spend billions on a military intervention especially after the Iraqi fiasco, the people are weary of another war, the repercussion of this intervention could lead to further crisis in a region that is already unstable and there was no concrete evidence that the attack came from the Assad regime. Basically this was a high risk decision with the President's political career and integrity on the line. I guess the high risk nature of this decision was what made the President seek the approval of Congress and the American people in the first place.
As a student of leadership, I was fascinated by the decision making process and how the President and his team made their case. The justification that was provided to the Senate included maintaining the credibility of the US to the world especially to the 'enemy nations', to provide assurance to their 'allies', to send signal to other nations; and the moral justification that USA can not just sit back and do nothing when chemical weapons are being used to kill innocent people in blatant disregard for International laws. I watched as John Kerry laid out to the Senate committee;
- the objective of the seating and the decision they are asking for
- highlighting the risks of non action
- stating known facts to back up the reason for the decision
- taking lessons from history
- acknowledging cost of the operation
- Assurance that objectives will be met
Irrespective of your political and personal views on the issue, as a leader you have to admire the boldness and courage to take the decision which you know would be a battle to get people on your side, the skill and strength of will to influence as many people as possible, the ability to state your case and be prepared to answer tough questions and the ability to stand for what you believe is the 'right thing to do'.
Watch out for Harvard Business School's analysis of the leadership lessons from this crisis!
By the way for lessons on how not to make tough decisions, learn from the United Kingdom process on the same crisis! (My British friends sorry I couldn't resist)
''In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.'' Theodore Roosevelt