Last night, I watched parts of CNN’s compassion forum with the Democratic Presidential candidates. At one point, Clinton was asked who she consults before making political decisions that are morally charged. It was a side comment, in her answer, that intrigued me.
Clinton’s paraphrased answer: Because you’re President of the United States you can’t simply delay decisions. After praying (if you’re a person of faith) and listening to others, you have to make the decision.
My follow up question to her answer would have been, "why can’t you delay?"
Now, I know there are dangers in OVER-delaying a decision. Of course, knowing when you’ve over-delayed is a bit of an art. But, impulsive decision making is equally as dangerous. It is quite possible for a leader to listen to others, pray (if he or she is a person of faith) and still jump the gun on a decision. The real trouble with decision making, as a leader, comes when the leader cannot hold the decision loosely. If the decision has already been made in his or her mind, then delay is simply smoke and mirrors.
But, if a leader is truly open to collaborative and wise decision making, delay can be very good. Again, I’m not referring to the paralyzed leader, but rather the open and discerning leader. The patient leader– on big decisions– should probably wait longer than is initially comfortable. Doing this keeps the leader from falling prey to a narrow agenda.
When it comes to decisions, waiting and listening may be better than praying–particularly if the prayer is coming from a leader who is simply looking for ways to justify a decision rather than discern a moment.