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Urgency versus the tendency to wait for the facts

Urgency Versus the Tendency to Wait for the Facts

In the book Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph Over Adversity, 1822-1865, author Brooks D. Simpson shares this as an example then General Grant’s perspective on the crucial role of decision-making in war:

“That winter James Rusling, a colonel in the quartermaster’s department, caught his first look at the hero of Chattanooga [Grant] and was disappointed. Here was no shiny general with brass buttons, sash and sword, but a rather common-looking man, just like ‘a country storekeeper or a western farmer.’ The general was ‘evidently intent on everything but show.’ But when it came to giving orders, Grant came alive, his ‘clear and penetrating eye’ and set jaw suggesting that he could ‘dare great things, and hold on mightily, and toil terribly’ in pursuit of his objective.


He might be a man of few words, but ‘he knew exactly what he wanted, and why and when he wanted it.’ Nearly every night the general could be found using the telegraph to keep tabs on his command (and the enemy), as he pondered the next move.

“Once, the colonel approached Grant with a requisition order authorizing large expenditures. Briefly reviewing the report, the general gave his approval, catching the colonel by surprise. Might the general want to ponder the matter a little longer? Was he sure he was right? Grant looked up. ‘No, I am not,’ he responded; ‘but in war anything is better than indecision. We must decide. If I am wrong, we shall soon find it out and can do the other thing. But not to decide wastes both time and money, and may ruin everything.’”

Leading in times of crisis

As a high stakes leader, you are going to have to determine when you have enough information to make a decision. Rest assured, it will never be as much as you would prefer to have.

It will rarely be enough to give you confidence in your decisions. But decision-making in a crisis isn’t a matter of perfection – it’s a matter of progress.

Making decisions in a time of limited information

At this link, you will find an article on the topic of making decisions in times of limited information by Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D.

He is a leadership educator, executive coach, speaker, and consultant. He has 36 years of experience and is the author of 36 books on leadership and executive decision-making. The article is titled: Making Decisions with Limited and Imperfect Information and it is adapted from the book 21 Success Sutras for CEOs.

Take the time to read this article and consider the lessons and wonderful advice he shares that seems perfectly adapted for our study of the crisis environment and the challenges it creates for high stakes leaders.

If you’d like to learn more about leading in times of crisis, check out the full online course, from The University of Michigan, below.

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High Stakes Leadership: Leading in Times of Crisis

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