Decision-Making Skills: Definition and Examples for Leaders

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 8 October 2022

Published 15 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Decision-making skills are often crucial to effective leadership because they display a leader's ability to think critically and research solutions to problems. Leaders use decision-making abilities in the workplace to decide on a course of action for specific projects, team members or their professional development. Understanding what decision-making skills are can help you focus on developing any skills you need to improve on and show you how to apply them in the workplace. In this article, we define decision-making skills, explore eight examples and show you how to improve and highlight these skills on a resume.

What are decision-making skills?

Decision-making skills are abilities that many leaders in the workplace possess, which enable them to make quick, accurate and impactful decisions. These skills help leaders navigate complex situations and decide on a course of action that works best for the project, the company and the team. Decision-making abilities can make leadership candidates more desirable to employers because they show experience in making tough choices and proficiency in critical thinking and time management.

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

8 examples of decision-making abilities

Here are eight examples of decision-making competencies for leaders in the workplace:

1. Problem-solving

Problem-solving skills are often the key to making the right decision because many workplace decisions are complex. Leaders use problem-solving skills to identify all possible solutions to a problem, analyse the potential success of each and leverage other skills, like creativity, to develop unique solutions. Excellent problem-solving skills help leaders address challenges quickly, keep their teams motivated by encouraging progress and display the company's innovation. Leaders typically develop problem-solving skills through experience with difficult problems and solutions in workplace scenarios, but problem-solving skills can also be taught in formal education.

2. Critical thinking

Critical thinking skills are important for making decisions because they allow the leader to gather information and analyse it to extract critical data. Critical thinking skills involve a lot of research, contemplation and reflection on past scenarios that offered similar challenges. Leaders use critical thinking to ensure the decisions they make offer the best possible outcome and minimise the risk of errors or costly mistakes that might disrupt the company or a project's progress. Developing critical thinking skills can take time and experience, as these skills typically develop over years of addressing challenging situations.

Related: What's the Importance of Critical Thinking in the Workplace?

3. Creativity

Creativity is a crucial skill in decision-making because it allows leaders to think outside the normal processes to create unique solutions to problems. When complex problems arise, sometimes standard approaches aren't as effective at addressing them. Leaders analyse each situation and leverage their extensive knowledge and experience to offer a more unique solution, often with better results. Creativity is a skill that leaders can develop through experience with unique situations. For example, a leader with extensive experience in creating social media ad campaigns might have unique insight into creating a digital marketing strategy for an e-commerce store.

Related: Inductive vs. Deductive Reasoning: Differences and How To Improve

4. Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills are crucial to decision-making because leaders work with other people who may have input or suggestions on solving the problem. Understanding how to work with other people through communication, collaboration and mutual respect can ensure the leader takes all suggestions into consideration and knows how to politely decline any suggestions that don't apply or won't work. Leaders can practise interpersonal skills like communication by practising positive encouragement, active listening and learning to resolve conflict or say no effectively. With excellent interpersonal skills, leaders can more effectively rely on their team in the decision-making process.

Related: How to Develop Skill Sets in 9 Steps

5. Organisation

Organisational skills help leaders organise their time, workspaces and projects. When they organise the available information and workspace, leaders experience a clearer mindset during the decision-making process. Organisational skills can help reduce overall stress and access the tools for making the right decisions. Leaders can practise their organisational skills by tidying their workplace, storing tools and paperwork in the proper places and managing their time with a calendar. They can also organise thoughts and ideas using a notebook or other medium to write things down for future review.

6. Time management

While time management is part of organising, it's a critical skill for decision-making and stands by itself as a crucial leadership skill. Most projects have a deadline, requiring leaders to organise their time and their team's time leading up to the deadline. With better time management, leaders can organise their time to have more opportunities to make excellent decisions. With more time to research and think critically, leaders can make better decisions that benefit the team.

7. Self-awareness

Decision-making typically requires a strong sense of self-awareness because personal biases or preferences can affect leaders' decisions. For example, a leader with a strong preference for in-person meetings might disregard the efficiency of online meetings, which could save the team a lot more time during projects. It's important that leaders reflect on their own biases and preferences when making decisions to ensure they're thinking about the team and the project's parameters. Self-awareness is also important for personal growth, as it helps leaders embrace humility and admit to mistakes. Solving challenges first requires an awareness of the challenge.

Related: How To Be Professional at Work in 20 Steps (Plus 5 Qualities)

8. Research skills

Decisions typically require plenty of research on potential outcomes, all the factors affecting those outcomes and what choices are actually practical for the team. Leaders use research skills like finding good web sources, using previous situations as a reference and seeking missing information to make informed decisions. Once they collect the data using their research skills, they use other skills like problem-solving and critical thinking to analyse and interpret the data for a final decision.

How to improve your ability to make decisions

Here is a short guide to aid you in improving your decision-making abilities:

1. Identify the need for a decision

Any member of the team can identify the need for a decision. Decisions can be major, affecting the whole team or organisation, or minor, affecting only a small part of the team or project. Improving your ability to identify when a decision is necessary can help you act more quickly and make better decisions through familiarity. It can also increase your team's confidence in your decision-making abilities, making them more productive and trusting of your leadership.

2. Note potential solutions or actions

Document all possible solutions for the problem. List them in front of your team during a meeting, so they can offer potential solutions you might miss. It's important to have multiple solutions available when making a decision so you can consider all aspects of the problem and how each decision might affect the project and the team. Starting with more potential solutions allows you to narrow your choices to only the best choices available.

Related: 6 Leadership Skills for a Resume and How to Demonstrate Them

3. List the advantages and disadvantages of each option

Discuss the pros and cons extensively to see which options can proceed to the decision-making stage. Take your time and calculate the pros and cons wisely to see if they match your goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) for the team or project. Ask your team members what pros and cons they can offer for each solution to be sure you're collecting as much information as possible. You can make a better decision when you have more information from various perspectives.

4. Choose the decision you want to proceed with and measure the results

With all of your information and team input, you can proceed to your decision-making process. Weigh each option carefully and choose the best course of action. Measure the success of your decision against the team's expectations and any KPIs you set for the project, team or decision you're making. You can adjust your decision or learn from any mistakes with a good review of how you came to the decision and what effects the decision had.

How to highlight decision-making experience

Here are three ways you can showcase your decision-making abilities on your resume:

1. Use applicable verbs shown in the job description

Word association is key to properly displaying your skills to the hiring manager because it associates them with the job description. This can also help the company's hiring algorithms flag your resume as a potential match. Verbs like selected, decided, strategised and executed exemplify a decision-maker. Prepare to explain each of these within the context of a work environment during your interview.

2. Underscore the metrics you earned in different roles

List the top-performing metrics at each position you held to capture the interest of the recruiter. For instance, your last position in a leadership role made you responsible for managing a 10-person team and guiding them through a six-step content creation process that boosted engagement by 20%. This displays effective leadership and the ability to make good decisions quickly.

3. Look at examples from job posting websites

Since you're tailoring your resume to the company in your targeted industry, browse multiple job postings websites to compare the experiences of other applicants, then showcase your decision-making proficiencies in the same way. This can help you gain a recruiter's attention by emulating others who show success in their job search. Keep your resume grounded and honest to establish trust with an interviewer.

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