Leadership: A Legacy of Indecision?

Leadership: A Legacy of Indecision?

Feb 12, 2012

“Control your own destiny or someone else will.” – Jack Welch

It is a common belief to think that the actions we take and decisions that we make as leaders will be what best defines us throughout our careers.

True perhaps, but this is certainly not the entire story.

What if I suggested that the actions we don’t take and the decisions we don’t make may very well leave a more lasting legacy than any of the things we actually do?

Would you believe it? Consider this first…

I have found that as emotional beings, no matter how courageous and fearless we may come across, we have a tendency to show the wrong emotion at the wrong time. Sympathy rather than empathy, pride rather than acceptance, hubris over humility, and so on and so forth.

These feelings can often lead to indecision, even in many cases where we know what the right decision is. A certain type of stubbornness that many have gripped too with less than stellar results.

Let’s take personnel for instance. In nearly every organization the most important component for success is having great people. While subjective, the philosophy holds true as great ideas come to life with great people, but even mediocre ideas can thrive with the right team in place.

But again, with subjectivity often comes “Right Fit.” It is entirely possible for an organization to have good talent that doesn’t fit and that can be as problematic as lacking talent.

It isn’t uncommon that we onboard personnel whom showed a track record of success at a past position only to be a misfit within our own organization. This situation serves as a great example of a crossroads where indecision can lead us astray.

In leadership it is our responsibility to bring out the very best in those around us. That happens through setting a great example and of course by creating an environment that inspires those within.

However, sometimes we do all that we can and the “Right Fit” just isn’t there. Sometimes we must make the hard decision to separate from that decision because the cost of continuing down that path is too great. Perhaps financially, perhaps intangibly, or maybe even both.

May we explore this further?

In my career I have been involved with numerous roles where the key limiting factors came down to the decisions not made. Take these for example straight from the archives of my career.

  • In one role early in my career a thriving company saw turnover at its VP of Sales position. After taking nearly a year to fill the position a clear wrong fit was hired. It took only a month for the global sales organization to realize this however it took more than 2 years for the company to make a change. What was once the industry leader has now fallen off immensely into a position of near irrelevance within its industry. While I have no crystal ball, the time where necessary change wasn’t made cost the company talent, customers, and market share.

  • During a period of time I led sales for an emerging start-up with an exciting product and a positive future. The founder of the company was a highly intelligent individual but not a strong leader. With funding needs and a short investment runway, the founder gripped tightly to the helm rather than bringing on an experienced CEO to lead the capitalization of the company. Eventually the cash ran dry and the founder lost everything including his title. What he “didn’t do” had for more impact then what he did.

  • In another more recent position I led an organization with a handful of highly talented sales personnel and long term relationships. These sales leaders provided the company with revenue to sustain, however the ownership of the company tended to resent the highly paid sales team rather than embracing their contributions. Further the company tended to stand loyal to non-producers for a plethora of reasons. After endless diatribes about the risks of not embracing your talent the company watched its top contributors one after another exit for other opportunities. To this day the company has struggled in it indecision to let go of weak links to be sure that its best talent is cultivated. It could eventually become the companies demise…

These types of anecdotes visit us everyday. In every one of these cases the controlling/leading entities were very aware of the problems yet they chose not to do anything about it. In each case it was bureaucracy, pride, sympathy, or just ignorance that caused this inaction. Nevertheless these become legacies created in indecision.

As leaders it is up to us to not allow our success or failure to be built in what we didn’t do.

When we know the course action we must respond promptly to be sure that we are always serving the greater good of the organizations in which we represent.

Perhaps Seth Godin said it best…“You don’t need more time, you just need to decide.”


Daniel nice to meet you and your work. You're right on the money. I've had a mantra for 33 years I've been a self employed entrepreneur: "Some of the best deals I ever did, were the best deals I NEVER did!"


I raised my son as a single dad.  He is 23 and thriving in Hawaii. I'm a big fan of Millennials. Let's connect one day. Our future depends on you. My email is mitch@thenewgame.com keep up the important work. You're a player who can change the game. Mitch Axelrod


If only more people strove to serve the greater good of the companies they worked for. If that were the case the world economy might not be in quite such the state it is in.

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Yes! Totally and utterly agree & your examples hit the nail on the head. This has become a bit of a talking point in the UK as well. :)


Your posts just keep getting better! The Jack Welch quote is one of my favorites, and the references to what we "don't do" are clear-cut and really hit home for me. Dan, I love how you keep busting cliches and reshaping conventions- that is your wheelhouse, and that insight is both informative and entertaining. Brilliance here as well: "As leaders it is up to us to not allow our success or failure to be built in what we didn’t do." because it is soooo true. Thanks for an exceptional post and a new perspective on the need for action at the top.


Great post, sadly I've seen much the same. Seems especially in management decision, managers are not good at realizing and then accepting they made a bad hire. They often cling to this bad hire until it becomes someone elses problem...

danielnewmanUV moderator

@westfallonline Chris - thanks so much for the kind words! It means a lot to me as you read the first post I ever wrote. Appreciate your support!


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