Leadership is a vital quality in business since it means the difference between success and failure. While some people may be regarded as "born leaders", most who become decisive leaders do so as the result of training that hones their leadership and management skills. The fact is that quality decision-making is a skill that can be acquired through training.
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), which specialises in executive education, is offering a two-day managerial decision-making and leadership programme to help executives make quality decisions.
Leadership is contextual rather than universal, says Caroline Wang, vice president, global business services, IBM China/Hong Kong Limited and adjunct professor of HKUST's School of Business and Management. "Leadership and decision-making are a tandem skill. But leadership is not confined to situations like the workplace. It is practised everywhere. It can't be taken out of context because different scenarios require different types of leaders or leadership. And even in the same business field, different organisations need different styles of leadership."
Citing the example of the IT industry, Professor Wang points out that developments occur at lightning speed so it needs someone who challenges the status quo to help the organisation adapt to the ever-changing environment and seize emerging opportunities. However, the opposite is the case concerning a utility company, where stability could be more important than creativity.
Professor Wang believes that long-term professional success, and the success of an organisation, depend considerably on the ability to make sound decisions. "Decision-makers must have in mind resource allocation and implementation when they make decisions. The next step of any decision should be implementation," she says. "Decisions should be realistic in terms of resources available so that they can be carried out."
Since quality decisions and leadership have such a profound impact on organisations, executives should have the ability to grasp the essential knowledge and skills to enhance their decision-making qualities from both personal and organisational perspectives, she believes.
The two-day managerial decision-making and leadership programme is tailored for leaders and managers whose decisions exert weighty influence on the performance of their organisations. A number of issues will be tackled in the programme, including psychological traps in decision-making, essential elements of quality decisions, goals and priorities, objective reasoning and alternatives.
Speaking of a common phenomenon that some people are afraid to make decisions, Professor Wang says, "This is because decisions are associated with the future, which is full of uncertainties. Facts and future are mutually exclusive. Our programme will provide participants with a decision-making framework tested by many practical situations. It is hoped that participants can approach decisions with confidence and lead their teams to make the best decisions after attending the programme."
Psychological traps hinder sound decision-making, as Professor Wang explains. "Decision-making should be logical and non-sensational. Making a decision should not be connected with a person's dignity or 'face'. We should refrain from taking our ego into consideration when making decisions for the organisation. Poor leaders are characterised by self-centredness. They put their own interests before the interests of other members of the team. By contrast, good leaders are mission- and people-centred. They are willing to get to know people as individuals and motivate them to achieve a common goal."
A leader should be a role model for the other members of the team, Professor Wang adds. "A leader's behaviour must be consistent with whatever lines of thought they have expressed when talking to their team," she points out. "Such consistency enables them to exert a positive influence on the others. This degree of influence on others is not determined by one's rank and position; it springs from quality decisions and the attitude of 'walk the talk'."
The programme has been well-received among senior executives seeking professional advancement and organisational success. It is based on an experiential teaching and learning approach. Participants get the opportunity to discuss and practice decision-making skills through lectures, cases and role plays. The programme is held over one full weekend to suit the busy schedules of executives. Upon completion, participants are awarded a certificate of participation. "Quality decision-making can become a habit after training," concludes Professor Wang.