The Art of Leadership: Making Decisions that Matter

September 17, 2023


In the fast-paced and dynamic world of business, leadership is a multifaceted art, one that requires a unique blend of vision, courage, and decisiveness. In this realm of captains and admirals, there are those who lead from the front, and then there are those who prefer to navigate the ship from behind the scenes. The latter group, the Leaders who say, "Figure it out and come back to me," are often misunderstood, but as Ratan Tata, Chairman of Tata Trusts and Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons, has shown us, their leadership style can be remarkably effective.

The Art of Leadership: Making Decisions that Matter

Ratan Tata, an iconic figure in the global business landscape, has made it clear that he doesn't believe in merely making the right decisions; he believes in making decisions and then making them right. This profound perspective was shared during a special ceremony at HEC Paris in April 2015 when Tata received an honorary degree from the prestigious institution. It's a philosophy that has guided his illustrious career and set the standard for leadership in the corporate world.

Tata's statement may seem paradoxical at first glance. How can one make a decision without knowing whether it's right or wrong? However, it's in understanding the nuances of this approach that we uncover the true essence of leadership.

Firstly, leaders who embrace this philosophy trust their teams implicitly. When they say, "Figure it out and come back to me," it's an acknowledgment of their faith in their team members' capabilities. This trust fosters a culture of empowerment and accountability, motivating team members to take ownership of their work. In such an environment, decision-making becomes a collaborative effort, drawing on the collective intelligence and expertise of the team.

Secondly, this leadership style encourages innovation and creativity. When leaders refrain from imposing their opinions or making snap judgments, they allow space for diverse perspectives and ideas to emerge. Team leads are encouraged to explore different options, experiment with novel solutions, and take calculated risks. This approach often leads to innovative breakthroughs that can propel a company to new heights.

Moreover, leaders who follow this philosophy understand the importance of context. Not every decision can be made in isolation or from a single vantage point. By entrusting team leads to make decisions, they acknowledge that those on the ground often possess the most accurate and up-to-date information. This ensures that decisions are well-informed and tailored to the specific circumstances, rather than being based on preconceived notions or distant perspectives.

Ratan Tata's own experiences provide compelling examples of how this leadership style can yield remarkable results. In 2014, faced with mounting challenges in West Bengal, Tata was forced to abandon plans for a new manufacturing plant. The political climate was volatile, and the decision carried significant consequences. Yet, Tata's approach of trusting his team to figure it out and come back with a solution ultimately led to the successful relocation of the project to another state, saving both the company's interests and preserving local jobs.

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