Making an executive decision requires more than using that part of your brain called “executive functioning” which can be defined as “a set of cognitive abilities that control and regulate other abilities and behaviors. Executive functions are necessary for goal-directed behavior. They include the ability to initiate and stop actions, to monitor and change behavior as needed, and to plan future behavior when faced with novel tasks and situations. Executive functions allow us to anticipate outcomes and adapt to changing situations…” (from the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders!) A mental disorder can affect anyone at anytime and while there may be signs that are ignored or minimized, it’s time we pay attention to behaviors that seem unusual or even puzzling. Those could be clues of future trouble down the road.
If you are going to be adept at solving problems and anticipating outcomes, one of the main functions of an effective leader, then it’s imperative that you have the ability to anticipate problems before they become even larger. You might call that foresight, something beyond insight. There is even a Foresight Institute that promotes transformative technologies that promise to address how to capture the opportunities and avoid the risks of nanotechnology in the future. Perhaps every organization should have a foresight institute of some sort, capturing opportunities and avoiding risks.
Two other main functions of an effective leader, from Nan Keohane, are making things happen and taking a stand. An effective leader is a catalyst for actions that will have positive impact on people and the community that he or she leads. Making things happen doesn’t just mean deciding what will happen or who will do what, but also understanding why you are doing what you’re doing and why you’re doing it that way. It is then easier to communicate your actions to others.
Taking a stand is being able to articulate with clarity and consistency your core values and how they inform, direct and support programs and policies that are the infrastructure of your organization. Getting everyone on board as much as possible so that you can move forward with common vision and common purpose is also easier when your constituents are subscribers to your mission and understand it sufficiently to repeat it often.
Executive decisions need to be sound, wise and well-informed and in the best interests of those whom you lead and serve. The most effective leaders accept the burden and blessing of responsibility that go with the position. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to exercise your authority with courage and conviction and perhaps most importantly with grace and generosity of spirit.