August 27, 2008

News & Opinion: How the Wise Decide: Final Post

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 1:56 PM – Filed under: Leadership & Strategy

For the past few days, we've been joined by Bryn and Aaron, authors of How the Wise Decide. If you'd like to catch up on their blog posts, start here. This is their final post for our blog.
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How Wise Leaders Can Help You Make Better Decisions

At a time when business decisions are more challenging than ever before, we set out to answer a simple question: How do the really successful leaders make the tough calls?
Our method was straightforward: Go to the source. We would find people who had made great decisions consistently--people like former American Express CEO Harvey Golub, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and The Blackstone Group chairman and CEO Stephen Schwarzman--and ask them how they did it. We figured that if we could ask enough successful and experienced leaders about their toughest decisions, surely the essence of decision making would emerge. As it turned out, our first inclination--Go to the Source--became our first principle, confirmed time and again by many of the 21 leaders we interviewed.
When it was all over we had distilled six core decision-making principles that have guided wise leaders across functions and industries and brought them through various crises. The six principles--Go to the Source, Fill a Room with Barbarians, Conquer the Fear of Risk, Make Vision Your Daily Guide, Listen with Purpose and Be Transparent--are the guiding lights by which the CEOs in our book, How the Wise Decide, drove the value of their companies up an average of 15 times the S&P 500 during their tenures. They are the basis for how four of our leaders became self-made billionaires, and two won the National Medal of Technology.
The principles sound deceptively simple. But when you read the book you will see, in the stories of how these leaders made their decisions, that executing the principles is the hard part. Following through on any single imperative with the dedication and drive that our wise leaders apply to it requires focus, effort and time. Doing it with all six might seem impossible. Don't worry. It isn't.
The principles we outline in How the Wise Decide are universal and timeless. But everyone's situation is different and there are probably some lessons that will be more useful or easier to execute in your present situation than others. Start there. As you master one principle, begin working on another. But keep all six in mind, perhaps written on an index card you carry in your pocket or purse, because there will always be opportunities to apply them to specific decisions. Even the most cursory use of the six principles will lead to better decisions.
How the Wise Decide isn't a book about business theories. Rather, it is a practical guide written for managers by managers that provides the advice we all need to make great decisions consistently. Our goal from the start has been to help accelerate you along the path to wise decision making and successful leadership. We believe that in these demanding times, when choosing the right decision is critical, the principles at the heart of How the Wise Decide can help you do just that. Please visit our website,, to learn more.
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Many thanks Aaron and Bryn!