Which Decision Will You Make? The Right One or The Popular One?

Michael was thrilled.  He had just been promoted at work.  He would assume his new responsibilities on Monday.  His hard work had been recognized and rewarded.  He’d receive a pay raise.  Best of all, he didn’t have to move.  His family could stay in the house they loved and the children could continue to go to school with their friends.  What more could he ask for?  It sounded perfect.

Michael went to work Monday morning expecting his friends and co-workers to welcome him with open arms, smiles, and hearty congratulations.  Imagine his disappointment when his co-workers greeted him warily, murmuring terse hellos and going right to their assigned tasks.  Michael realized that his co-workers no longer saw him as “one of the guys”; he was “one of them” … management.

Late that afternoon, Bernie, the guy he usually ate lunch with, approached Michael and explained that his mother-in-law had made a surprise visit and would there the remainder of the week.  Bernie asked if he could take the rest of the week off since he liked his mother-in-law and rarely got to see her.

Michael’s first thought was that granting Bernie’s request would demonstrate that he was still “one of the guys”.  His second thought was that Bernie was a key member of the team that had a project deadline on Friday and, if Bernie was gone, the deadline would not be met and the company’s reputation would be damaged, perhaps irreparably, with the client.  Reluctantly, he told Bernie that the answer was no … the deadline could not be extended.

At the end of the day, Michael’s mentor, Jake, pulled him aside and asked how the first day had gone.  Happy to have a sounding board, Michael shared the incident and asked Jake if he’d made the right call.  Jake responded by telling him this story …

“Michael, the first time I was put into a leadership position was when I was elected to be Senior Patrol Leader of my Boy Scout troop.  I realized very quickly that I would be asked to make important decisions that affected everyone else in the troop.  And, I found out really fast that I could make the right decision; or, I could make the popular decision.  What I finally figured out was that being popular didn’t necessarily make a decision the right decision.  If I was going to make a decision, I had to make the right decision; the one that provided the greatest benefit to everyone.”

Great leaders follow Jake’s wise example.  Popularity doesn’t necessarily make a decision the right decision.  Great leaders weigh the options and choose the one that provides the greatest benefit to the team.

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