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Decision-Making & Problem-Solving (DM-PS)

By Dr. Lisa M. Coffey

January 5, 2023

Key Words: decision-making, problem-solving,


The current events in the National Football League showcase the need to review the subjects of decision-making and problem-solving (DM-PS). DM-PS are inevitable tasks that a leader must undertake. A trained leader has the knowledge and skills to facilitate DM-PS because there is no standard template. Leaders must recognize the necessity of advanced preparation. John C. Maxwell (2007), the author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, states, "leadership develops daily, not in a day" ( p. 23), otherwise known as the law of process. Leadership involves a continual learning process, training, re-training, and developing a personal plan for continual growth. The NFL's administration is facing unprecedented times, learning and engaging in DM-PS for the organization's greater good. No matter the timetable or decision, everyone will not be pleased.

The Prepared Mind of a Leader

According to authors Bill Welter and Jean Egmon, leaders use a combination of eight mechanisms to innovate, make decisions and solve problems. Those skills are observing, reasoning, imagining, challenging, deciding, learning, enabling, and reflecting (The Prepared Mind of A Leader, 2006, pp. 3-6). Read about the eight mechanisms; however, the highlighted mechanisms apply to the NFL's current situation.

  • Observing- the leader can see beyond the obvious and anticipate the unexpected. The world in which we live and operate is ever-changing, and the concept of observing is "seeing beyond the obvious" (Welter & Egmon, 2006, p. 43). To solve problems using this concept, leaders need to become observers using additional skills such as attention, perception, and pattern recognition.

  • Reasoning- The leaders ask difficult questions for clarity on the ideas/solutions before they can engage in acceptance. The notion of reasoning parallels a concept outlined by John C. Maxwell called the Law of the Buy-In (Maxwell, 2007). The law of the buy-in states, "When people believe in their leader and the vision, they will follow their leader" (p. 151).

  • Imagining-"Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions" (Albert Einstein). Seemingly, the most extraordinary imagination of all time is that of Walt Disney. Disney's vision built his life and legacy. Disney died in 1966, yet his dreams came to life. Disney's mind, imagination and forward-thinking unlocked the potential of his successors. That is a testament to his leadership and his imagination. In DM-PS, imagining helps leaders from point A to point B. Leaders must think ahead, make sense of the things in their minds, and find common ground in past and current thoughts. When leaders successfully bridge the gap between the past and present, they begin improving their imagination. Walt Disney was able to bridge the gaps in his vision, and even after his death some 48 years ago, the company he built continues to thrive today.

  • Challenging- The concept of challenging expects leaders to move past ordinary thoughts and into more profound ones while challenging assumptions for accuracy and validity. In addition to their ideas, leaders need to challenge others. Challenging allows leaders to improve the "level of performance" (Welter & Egmon, 2006, p. 139) by using the teachable moments brought on by challenging the organization's known facts. Not only does challenging improve critical thinking skills, but challenging is a valuable tool when building workplace relationships and creating a vast pool of diverse viewpoints.

  • Deciding- In the DM-PS process, leaders must be able to choose between a set of alternatives. However, leaders must equip themselves with valuable tools to improve their decision-making skills to reach the final destination. Failing to do so restricts the leader's capability to decide. These skills are necessary;

Understanding of the issue

Establishing a wide range of alternatives

Understanding the goals and the implications of each option

Weighing the values and consequences of each choice, including the positive outcomes as well as the negative results

Research the solutions

Develop implementation and contingency plans

  • Learning-learning is essential. Leadership is a process that includes education and preparing for times of uncertainty. Some people are born with natural gifts, while others are not. The ability to lead comes from a collection of teachable talents and skills. Influential leaders are seasoned. The aspects of leadership encapsulate the skills needed for thinking outside the box, realizing the potential of innovation, and within the organization's internal and external environments. A leader manages, leads the organization through times of change, and embraces the changes for the organization's sustainability.

  • Enabling- the benefits include building relationships, deepening knowledge, and expanding the capacity of others. Tony Dungys' list - The Seven E's of Enhancing potential in his book The Mentor Leader are: Engage, Educate, Equip, Encourage, Empower, Energize and Elevate (Dungy, 2010, pp. 165-191). These concepts cast light on enabling positively.

  • Reflecting-Reflecting is the tool we use to self-regulate. "Reflecting keeps us honest" (Welter & Egmon, 2006, p. 206) and on task. The authors further point out three aspects of reflecting, as defined below.

Looking Backward- during the DM-PS process, the leaders take the time to reflect and ask the following questions: where have I been, and what have I done?

Looking Forward – in the process, leaders must also have a vision and a destination and ask themselves the following questions: where am I going, and what is the plan?

Looking Inward- leaders must undergo a self-assessment and ask do they have what it takes to get there. Moreover, if the answer is no, ask the following question what do I need to improve to get there?


Once leaders understand the importance of preparation and utilize the tools suggested by Welter, Egmon, Dungy, and Maxwell, they are well on their way to a smoother transition through the DM-PS process. In doing so, leaders are taking a proactive approach to the decision-making process. Leaders face the daunting task of DM-PS daily. These tools can be the steering wheel that helps guide the findings to the desired outcome that both the leader and organization will be proud of for years to come. Failing to realize the importance of the elements discussed herein will ultimately lead the decision-maker onto a one-way street headed in the wrong direction. This guide can serve as a roadmap to navigate the decision-making process toward the intended destination.

Key Takeaways:

Are you equipped to make sound decisions to solve problems for your organization?


Dungy, T. (2010). The Mentor Leader. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Maxwell, J. C. (2007). 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Welter, B., & Egmon, J. (2006). The Prepared Mind of A Leader. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

© 2023 Dr. Lisa M. Coffey



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