8.2 Decision-Making Styles

Decision-making can come in many forms.  It usually depends on the manager. Managerial theories were discussed in in Chapter Two  regarding the different classical and contemporary theories present in managerial styles. In this context, there are managerial decisions that are found within organizations:

  • Structured Problems – familiar, straightforward, and clear with respect to information needs. This can be closely related to a bureaucratic or scientific management theory.
  • Unstructured Problems – New or unusual situations full of ambiguities and information disfluencies. With ambiguity comes an understanding, either substantiated or unsubstantiated, and relates closely to a behavioural theory.
  • Crisis Decisions – An unexpected problem can lead to disaster if not resolved quickly and appropriately. In a crisis, perhaps a more bureaucratic, autocratic approach will be needed to alleviate harms quickly and efficiently.

Depending on the situation, the style will change based on the desired outcomes. With structured problems, expert and referent power may be the best course of action.  It gives the ability to control the situation, especially during a crisis. However, if the problem is ambiguous, a more collaborative nature would work best, perhaps along the lines of in-depth thinking and challenging skeptical notions. Regardless of the approach, here is an in-depth guide to the different decision-making styles, characteristics, buzzwords, and tips.


Description Typical Characteristics Buzzwords Tips
Charismatics experience high level of emotion about a new idea, but will ultimately rely on a balanced set of information to come to a conclusion
  • enthusiastic
  • captivating
  • talkative
  • dominant
  • result
  • proven
  • actions
  • easy
  • clear
  • focus
  • use straightforward arguments
  • emphasize bottom-line results
  • use visual aids
Thinkers can be the toughest to persuade. Impressed with arguments supported by data, and can be risk averse and slow to make a decision.
  • cerebral
  • intelligent
  • logical
  • academic
  • quality
  • academic
  • think
  • numbers
  • intelligent
  • plan
  • expert
  • proof
  • offer plenty of data and analyses to support position
Skeptics tend to be highly suspicious of every data point presented, especially any information that challenges their worldview, and often have an aggressive, combative style
  • demanding
  • disruptive
  • disagreeable
  • rebellious
  • feel
  • grasp
  • power
  • action
  • suspect
  • trust
  • demand
  • disrupts
  • line up endorsement from people the decision-maker trusts
Followers make decisions based on how they’ve made similar choices in the past, or on how other trusted individuals have made them
  • responsible
  • cautious
  • brand-driven
  • bargain-cautious
  • innovate
  • expedite
  • expertise
  • deliver evidence that the risk is low while playing up how the proposal will be trailblazing
Controllers detest uncertainty and ambiguity, and will focus on the pure facts and analytics of an argument
  • logical
  • unemotional
  • sensible
  • detail-oriented
  • accurate
  • analytical
  • details
  • facts
  • reason
  • logic
  • power
  • handle
  • grab
  • present a series of highly structured arguments over time
Figure 1: Decision-Making Styles.

Another decision-making style that is effective is the role of directing or delegating. Delegating is the use of other individuals, in a collaborative nature, to handle tasks that have initially been brought to the leader. For example, a middle-manager at a hotel is asked by the boss to work on hiring two new people, and finish the priority check-ins for the evening shift. The task of hiring two new staff-members for the operation is imperative, and should be started right away.  However, the priority check-in is also important, but there is a competent front-desk agent available. In this case, the manager would delegate the priority check-in to the front desk agent which frees him or her up to start the hiring process.

Delegation is important to finding the right decisions within the organization. Delegating should have two factors present:

  • Experience and knowledge of tasks
  • Autonomy and accountability of the subordinates

These factors are paramount, because in order to delegate, there must be a return to the decision-making process and review of any challenges there might be when doing a task that was delegated. In addition, a sense of freedom and autonomy must also be provided to the subordinates who carry out the tasks. Staff must be provided freedom and be accountable for their actions so that they can share responsibility for the success or failure of the assignments. This ties into the ability to direct individuals as Kimani outlines in the four components of directing[4].

Activity: Pitching For Better

Source: Williams, G., and Miller, R. (2002). Change the way you persuade. Harvard Business Review, 80, 64-73.



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Leadership and Management in Learning Organizations Copyright © by Clayton Smith; Carson Babich; and Mark Lubrick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book