The Benevolent Dictator: Keys to Successful Decision-making - Slide 2

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Being a leader in business is somewhat like being a commander on a battlefield — things are happening quickly, and many of them are outside your control. Generals and general managers are a lot alike. Neither group always has the luxury of going over every little detail or asking their people what they think should happen. They have to move fast. They have to think on their feet. To take advantage of a competitor’s weakness, you have to be able to move quickly, and you can’t do that if you spend too much time trying to figure out what every last person on the team thinks.

Don Tennant has come to know a lot of CIOs and other IT leaders over the years, and if there’s one quality that characterizes those who’ve been the most successful, it has to be their willingness to make tough decisions without feeling compelled to go through the time- and energy-sapping ordeal of trying to build a consensus or analyzing the situation to death. So when he spoke recently with Michael Feuer, the co-founder and longtime CEO of OfficeMax, he was nodding so much he says he felt like a bobblehead in an earthquake.

According to Don, Feuer, author of the book, "The Benevolent Dictator: Empower Your Employees, Build Your Business and Outwit the Competition," has, once and for all, debunked the myth that the best leaders are consensus builders. Don’s interview with Feuer is posted here, but this excerpt from their conversation will give you an idea of where Feuer is coming from:

I can remember from my OfficeMax days, I loved the company except for three constituents: the employees, the customers, and the investors. Other than that, I had a great time every day of my life. But I know the IT guys would get so damn frustrated because they’d have to go through levels to get through the capital appropriations process. I happened to love IT, and I would sometimes just cut to the chase, bring in the thought leaders in a given project that needed money, and I’d say, “Tell me about it, explain to me what’s in it for us.” And then I’d say, “We’ll make it happen,” or “Don’t waste your time, we’re done.” When I’d say “Make it happen,” they were, of course, very pleased. When I said “Don’t waste your time,” they’d say, “Thanks,” because they’re not beating their heads against the wall, and they go do something else.

Sounds like the kind of leader every IT worker wishes he or she was working for, doesn’t it?

This slideshow features the seven tips Feuer has come up with to make decisions like a benevolent dictator.

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