Decision-making Skills for the Expat Leader

Successful organizations today go beyond looking at performance when identifying high-potential talent. Leadership in its multi-faceted awesomeness is much more influential. Peter Drucker said, "Management is doing things right; Leadership is doing the right things." In an international setting, the people component becomes even more important, which is why I love this quote:

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." John Quincy Adams

Who are the leaders in your organization?

Those who make a difference and inspire others don't always have influential titles. Seth Godin talked about this phenomenon in his book and TED talk, "Tribes" - do what you love with integrity, and like-minded people will be drawn toward you. Look toward your company's blogs and social media outlets: who are the influencers? Who post the most? Who's getting the comments, responding to them, sparking spin-off conversations? Are you empowering these individuals to actually lead change and make decisions?

If your culture is hierarchical or has preferences for ascription on the Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner dimension, chances are, you're missing out on excellent leadership talent. These cultures allocate respect by title, position, name, or historical background. The position you hold, who your parents are, or where you have studied matters more than your actual work output. Very broadly speaking, we see examples of ascription in Asian cultures, where there's an inherent respect for the elderly, and company leaders may be the face of the operation, but decisions are actually recommended by those staff with more expertise.

If your culture is more egalitarian or has preferences for achievement on the Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner dimension, competition for leadership position is likely to be much more rampant. These cultures mostly show respect for work output and what you do, rather than where you came from. Your experiences matter, your skills matter, and broadly speaking we see this in Western cultures. The USA are a good example: which other country do you know that a dish-washer can build an empire, or an actor became President?

Supporting efficient decision-making

Once you have identified the decision-makers and influencers in your organization, every sound decision involves all four Jungian functions as described in the Z-Model of the MBTI(r) instrument (descriptive terms borrowed from Susan Nash and Dr Linda Berens' work). Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Sensing

Extraverted Sensing / Experiencing: What is happening in the here and now? What is the data telling you? What is the practical meaning of the current situation?

Introverted Sensing / Recalling: How does this remind you of past experiences? Can you apply past learnings? What happened last times the numbers were like this?

2. Intuiting

Extraverted Intuiting / Brainstorming: What are the patterns and recurring themes? What are the possibilities for the future? What are innovative ways the data could be applied?

Introverted Intuiting / Visioning: What does it mean in the big picture? What is the end goal or purpose? What are your insights?


3. Thinking

Extraverted Thinking / Organizing, Systematizing: What are the steps to reach our goal? Which structure should logically be applied? Who is going to do what by when?

Introverted Thinking / Analyzing: How can the decision-items be categorized? What would be another angle to look at the issue? How did we end up here in the first place?

4. Feeling

Extraverted Feeling / Harmonizing: How are the involved parties feeling about the situation? What is the appropriate thing to do? What are some personal stories connected to this decision?

Introverted Feeling / Valuing: What are people's spoken or unspoken beliefs, and how will the decision affect them? What is important for the involved parties to remember in the action planning? Is the decision reflecting the organization's values?

Respect the process... and the context

Without Sensing input, your decision will be made on shaky ground. Without Intuiting, you may miss lucrative options. Without Thinking, deadlines and budgets will be hard to meet. And without Feeling, you may miss out on buy-in from the necessary stakeholders.

This process will help show respect across cultures, because you're involving task-related input as well as the people, and you're providing the necessary data with some background and potential applications.

Care to share your experiences? Leave a comment!

Image by Craig Camp, flickr, Creative Commons License.