According to the internet, the average person makes 35,000 separate decisions every day – that’s roughly one decision every two seconds you’re awake, which is pretty exhausting when you think about it.
Thankfully the majority of these decisions are rapid, subconscious no brainers, like blinking. But when it comes to the bigger stuff, decisiveness is a cornerstone of strong leadership.
There are a wide range of decision-making styles amongst top company bosses. From the gut instinct, throw your hat over the wall style of a Richard Branson, to the analytical William Edwards Deming: “In God we trust; all others bring data.”
In reality, the best leaders combine both visionary intuition backed up with hardcore financial or statistical analysis. It’s a good job too, because over relying on one approach can be a bit dangerous.
Surely topping any list of decisive travel leaders would be Peter Long, who recently stood down from Tui Group. A prime example of his decision-making prowess was Tui’s merger with First Choice back in 2007. It was this union which consolidated a UK package holiday market that was over supplied and hell-bent on discounting itself into financial oblivion.
As further evidence, his strategic decision to concentrate on differentiated product is surely the reason Tui appears to be weathering the current worldwide turbulence with relative ease, as announced in their latest trading results. So what happens when there is an absence of decisiveness?
At the other end of the spectrum, there are some companies for whom only a burning platform or a crisis will force them into making a decision. Without bold decision-making, organisations can be paralysed by inaction.
Take Nokia and Research In Motion (makers of Blackberry). Once upon a time they were at the forefront of their industry, but as technology advances and changes in consumer behaviour slowly rendered them obsolete, they sat idly watching.
As an all too painful example for the travel sector, witness the litany of cabinet ministers, committees and think tanks still gazing at their navels while the London airport capacity time-bomb ticks on. World-class procrastinators living by the maxim of “why delay something until tomorrow, when you can delay it until the day after that?”
It reminds me of an old fable about a donkey standing half way between a bucket of water and a pile of hay. The donkey can’t decide whether to go for the water first, and then the hay, or the hay first and then the water. He looks at the hay. Then he looks at the water. The hay. The water. In the end the donkey collapses and dies of hunger AND thirst. Sometimes, just simply making a decision is better than nothing at all.
Martin Alcock is director of the Travel Trade Consultancy