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16 Decision Making Styles

        posted by , June 27, 2016

Every time you make a decision your future universe shifts a little (or a lot).

Decision making is widely associated with leadership and management. However, decisions happen at every level of an organization every day.

Decision making is more art than science. There's no magic formula that delivers effective decisions in every situation.

People tend to use a variety of decision making styles that they apply dynamically depending on the situation. These 16 styles of decision making are amongst the most common techniques.

1. Emotional Decisions

Emotion driven decisions are extremely common. For example, appetite for risk is often more emotional than logical.

A risk taker may feel a rush of happiness every time they make a risky decision. Others may avoid risky decisions out of feelings of fear or need for security.

Any emotion you can think of — from anger to love commonly drives decisions. Emotional decision making isn't necessarily a bad idea. In fact, Emotional intelligence is an important factor in any decision that directly impacts people.

2. Political Decisions

Office politics has a major influence on business decisions. In many cases, decision makers are more focused on scoring political points than in achieving business results.

A highly political corporate culture requires decision makers to consider the political repercussions of decisions.

3. Intuitive Decisions

The human mind is able to model complex decisions using elegant fuzzy algorithms (to use computer science terms).

It's common for highly accomplished business leaders to describe their decision making strategy as being intuitive.

4. Logical Decisions

Modeling decisions using known facts and applying logic to arrive at a decision.

In many cases, an intuitive decision can beat a logical decision. Logical decisions may simplify a decision down to a handful of known facts. An intuitive decision may take into account more variables (although this process is largely hidden in the subconscious).

Purely logical decisions may fail to account for the influence of politics. This can be politically dangerous. Likewise, decisions that ignore emotional factors may be strongly resisted.

5. Automated Decisions

Many organizations and individuals seek rules that can be used to automatically make decisions.

Automated processes and algorithms can be applied to make decisions based on a large number of variables. In such cases, humans may not understand the reasons for resulting decisions (lack of decision transparency).

6. Data Driven Decisions

A decision that's supported by data or data analytics. The actual decision is made by a person or group of people.

7. Knowledge Driven Decisions

A decision that's supported by a knowledge system. Knowledge is information that's achieved through experience or education.

8. Facilitated Decisions

A leader or facilitator leads a group decision making discussion. The facilitator leads the group towards a decision (often a compromise).


Groupthink is a known group decision making phenomenon whereby a decision reflects the social dynamics of a group and doesn't make much sense. For example, compromised decisions that mash everyone's ideas together may be of poor quality.

9. Consensus

Some leaders and managers prefer that their teams come to complete agreement on a decision. This results in comprised decisions that may suffer from groupthink.

Japan and certain East Asian countries tend to have a management culture than seeks group consensus on major decisions. Although consensus is preferred, leaders are expected to make a decision if teams can't agree.

10. Voting

Leaders decide on choices and their team votes for a decision. Voting can be an effective way to encourage group participation in decision making without ending up with low quality decisions.

11. Consulted Decisions

A leader seeks consultation on decisions but makes the final call.

12. Delegated Decisions

A leader delegates decisions to the individual on his/her team best positioned to make a decision.

13. Random Decisions

Flipping a coin is often better than no decision at all.

14. Decision Avoidance

A leader or individual who avoids making decisions (usually out of a fear of responsibility). Various tactics can be deployed to avoid decisions such as delay tactics.

Decision avoidance is generally destructive. It prevents an organization from adapting to change, taking opportunities and avoiding risks.

15. Ambiguous Decisions

Some decision makers seek to avoid responsibility for a decision by making ambiguous decisions. For example, decisions may be designed to take both sides of an issue to avoid blame either way.

Ambiguous decisions are perhaps the least effective decision making strategy. They put your organization in reverse and neutral at the same time.

16. Effective Leadership Style

Effective leaders make clear, concise and quick decisions. They realize that effective decisions always entail an element of risk but they blaze ahead anyway. They consult their teams but don't get bogged down into the trap of trying pleasing everyone. They balance emotional intelligence, logic and intuition. They utilize both information and knowledge. They're politically astute but they don't allow politics to stop them from making a good decision.

Decision making is never easy.

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