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leadership

Do the Right Thing. Even When It Hurts

FORBES 7 Hours Ago

by John Baldoni

(Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

The challenge of leadership is to do what is right for the organization despite what others may be telling you.

Leaders in every sector face this question regularly when their well-laid plans go awry. Sometimes you need to reverse course. Other times you may need to stay the course. When reconsidering a decision it is important to decide what you did, why you did it, and what will be the consequences of reversing the decision. Toward that end, here are three questions to consider.

What is the business case? Consider the reasons for your decisions. If the business case remains valid, then you should stay the course, despite the pain. But if conditions have changed, and you need to bring back laid off employees or make more capital investments, then you are shrewd to change course. Coming out of recession is a great time for investing in the business so it is natural to reconsider hard decisions made in tougher times.

Who will benefit from our reversal? Reversing decisions have immediate impact. If there were layoffs, employees come back to work. If worthy projects were postponed, they can be brought forward. Or in people decisions, you may promoting someone who was overlooked the first time. Consequences of reversals are not always positive. A delayed layoff may be become imminent; or a person promoted may be demoted if his performance proves subpar.

What is the right thing to do? Ethics have a role to play in any decision. Decisions affecting employment affect peoples’ lives profoundly. But employing workers you do not need is not healthy. It drains limited resources and prevents investments in other areas such as facility upgrade, process improvement and research and development. Therefore, to pay for what you do not need can harm the entire organization. Doing what is right can cause pain.

Ideally the organization should benefit from every decision a leader makes but such a statement must not be used as excuse to overlook mistakes. For example, if an employee was harmed by an abusive boss, or denied a promotion when it had been earned, the company owes their people restitution. Same holds for communities that have been harmed by corporate misdeeds like toxic dumping. The company will pay a price but it is necessary because it caused the harm.

Paramount in any leadership decision must be doing what is right for the organization. As painful as downsizing of employees or franchisees, such a move should be considered carefully and if it is in the best interest of the company, senior leadership must act promptly.

Reversing such a decision may benefit a few in the short term, but companies are not in business for today; its management must be thinking of tomorrow. What you decide today will affect the company’s ability to compete effectively by offering its customers the best value possible.

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