Leaders Make Decisions in Advance

April 5, 2013

There is a story which perfectly illustrates how leaders make decisions in advance.

pic of pills

Flickr Photo Credit: Eric C Bryan

The Tylenol tragedy in 1982 occurred because someone (who has never been convicted) intentionally tampered with Tylenol bottles leading to the death of seven people.

Johnson and Johnson (the company which makes Tylenol) displayed an amazing act of courage and integrity in their response to the situation. When Tylenol was assumed to be responsible for the death of these individuals, the CEO of Johnson and Johnson decided to pull the 31 million bottles of Tylenol from the shelves of every single retail store. The retail value of these bottles was around 100 million dollars.

This was a courageous decision and it was the right decision in order to protect more people from dying. It would have been very appropriate and acceptable for Johnson and Johnson to simply remove the bottles from the Chicago area stores since that is where the deaths occurred  However, Johnson and Johnson went above and beyond what was required by pulling bottles from every single store.

The side story to this is that when the CEO of Johnson and Johnson was asked why he had pulled the bottles from every store, he responded that it was part of John and Johnson’s mission statement. Taking care of customers was core to who they were so the decision was easy to make because (in theory) the decision had already been made in in advance because of their mission statement.

Leaders are forward in their thinking. They are always thinking ahead for what might happen and what could go wrong. They often are thinking about decisions ahead of time and they know how to make those decisions when they come about because they know who they are and what their organization stands for. This is partially because leaders are always seeing what they want for the future and doing their best to make it real.

Leaders also make decisions ahead of time because of their preparation. As John Wooden often said, “When opportunity knocks, it’s too late to prepare.” Leaders prepare for decisions ahead of time by growing, reading books, and networking with other leaders. Doing those things helps leaders be ready for the unexpected and prepared to make the correct decisions.

When a leader works hard to know himself, what his organization stands for, and he is growing along the way, he will be ready to make the correct decision. Preparing for decisions that don’t have to be made based on circumstances that haven’t happened yet is the sign of an effective leader. As Donald Trump states in his autobiography, “Hope for the best but plan for the worst.”

One thing that has helped me with making decisions ahead of time is knowing myself by developing core values for myself. Even though these core values are not something I have memorized, the simple act of sitting down to think about what I stand for as a man and leader helps to clarify what decisions I will make when new situations and circumstances present themselves. When faced with new situations I know what decision to make because I have already made the decision in advance based on my core values.

Question: How do you make decisions ahead of time?

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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