What do you do when you face an important but complicated decision? Do you turn to experts? Dig for data? Ask trusted friends and colleagues? Go “with your gut”? Let’s take a look at the components for building and maintaining a strong foundation in leadership.

According to Cheryl Strauss Einhorn (What Are Your Decision-Making Strengths and Blind Spots?, Harvard Business Review, August 2022), many leaders approach decision making from the same perspective over and over. But following the same strategy for every problem limits a person’s abilities. To be a most effective leader – and make better decisions – it is imperative to break out of your pattern and see things differently. But how does a person effectively begin this shift?

First, it is important that every leader understands his/her own decision-making strengths as well as their blind spots.  For example, “What is the typical approach that is used when facing a decision?” “What mental mistakes or cognitive biases tend to get in your way?” From there, it is possible to change your typical approach.

According to Einhorn, there are five different Problem-Solving Profiles that are utilized to make decisions. These include:

Adventurer: This leader makes decisions quickly and “trusts their gut.” When faced with a challenge, big or small, the leader decides to do “what feels right” rather than spend valuable time thinking through all the choices. Although he/she rarely hesitates, key decisions can turn out to be very wrong. A leader who uses this type of decision-making style can often be described as “quick thinking,” but also as “impulsive.”

Detective: A leader who uses this approach values information and data, and consistently looks for facts. Unlike the Adventurer decision-maker, this person does not decide actions based upon how they feel, but rather based upon “what the evidence suggests” should be done. This type of leader is often described as “being thoughtful.” However, he/she can also take too long to make a decision and, therefore, may miss certain opportunities.

Listener: Leaders who consistently employ this type of decision-making have a trusted group of “advisors” from whom they can seek feedback. Therefore, when this person is faced with a challenging situation or a complex decision, he/she relies on this base for assistance.  This leader may be described as a person who always seeks counsel prior to making decisions. However, they can also appear to be a leader who “cannot make up his/her mind by themselves”.

Thinker: This leader is very thoughtful, and resists pressure to make quick decisions. He/she consistently and carefully weighs options, and takes the time to understand the positives, and negatives, of each possibility. This leader generally does not require as much data/information as the Detective (#2 above), but they require the time to consider various options in order to believe that they have chosen the correct, or best, option. Although this leader rarely chooses a poor course of action, others comment that this type of leader “can never seem to make up his/her mind.”

Visionary: Finally, certain leaders never want to “settle for the ordinary, and often like to go his/her own way.” These leaders are more interested in finding a different option, preferably one that hasn’t yet occurred to others – especially competitors.  Therefore, he/she keeps everyone guessing, often surprising those around him/her with the final decision that is made.

Although there is no perfect Problem Solver Profile, certain ones may be more effective with different types of dilemmas, perhaps at different stages of decision-making. However, according to Einhorn, the most successful decision-making approach combines different profiles. This allows a leader to better check their initial tendency and challenge their biases. The leader is then able to bring out a more holistic understanding of a situation, which often ensures that the “entire problem” is solved in a most resourceful manner.

Therefore, to become a more competent decision-maker, and ultimately a more effective leader, it is essential to understand each of these five decision-making strategies– or Problem Solver Profiles – and learn to be able to utilize each of them. This begins by learning your own preferred approach, and then identifying others who use a different method, or Profile. Intentionally learn more about each of the other four Profiles, and consistently involve persons with those other Profiles.

Finally, learn to incorporate important aspects of the most appropriate Problem Solver Profile(s) for various challenges, and begin to build the capability – and flexibility — to utilize each of the other four Profiles. Over time, you will become able to make the “best decisions” in most all situations.

About the Author

For years, E.A.S.I.-Consult® has been helping companies identify – and develop – leaders who are most likely to excel in a variety of leadership positions. As a leader in researching and identifying key capabilities necessary for many leadership positions, we assist organizations to reach their full potential. 

Joseph Gier, Ph.D. is Vice President – Consulting Services at E.A.S.I-Consult and is a licensed Psychologist. E.A.S.I-Consult works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized organizations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. Utilizing scientific approaches, E.A.S.I.-Consult provides superior results to Business – Driven by Science. Our specialties include leadership and leadership potential assessment, online employment assessment, customized skills assessment, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. To learn more about E.A.S.I.-Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com, or call 800.922.EASI.