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Your Career Retainer

Your Career Retainer is a career column written for Drexel alumni by Chris Bilotta '77, '84. Chris is co-owner of the Resource Development Company, Inc., is a Certified Public Accountant, and is recognized as a Certified Professional Résumé Writer.

Alumni are encouraged to send comments, questions or suggestions for future column topics to

Making Effective Leadership Decisions
August 2014

How much time each week do you spend making decisions? Many of the choices a leader makes are almost automatic, requiring little thought. However, there are definitely more challenging choices that must be made.

Daily work life is made up of numerous tasks, all of which require decision-making. According to Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia Business School and author of "The Art of Choosing," the average CEO works on 139 tasks per week. Iyengar also reports that researchers who documented the decisions related to those 139 tasks found that half the choices related to task completion took nine minutes or less. Not all decisions were reached quickly, as approximately 12% of CEO decisions required an hour or more of thought.

When it comes to effective leadership decision-making, it's both a quantity and quality issue. As a leader, the ability to make sound decisions is critical; knowing just how much time to invest in a decision can make or break your personal effectiveness and, by extension, that of your team. Obviously, certain decisions require careful thought. But you're probably over-thinking other issues that don't require the attention you're devoting.

Jennifer Miller is a leadership development consultant whose recent post on SmartBlog on Leadership listed five reasons you might be investing too much time in deciding.

Your threshold for accuracy is too high. If you are a high achiever (as most leaders are), it's likely that high accuracy is part of your DNA. If nearly perfect is your default operating mode, rethink your quality threshold. For decisions with low probability of negative ramifications, ask yourself what is good enough? Even if the choice doesn't meet your standards, does it meet the standards of the person making the request? If it does, let it go.

There are too many choices. If you have a tendency to be very thorough in your thought process, it's possible you are inadvertently decreasing the quality of your decision. Iyengar's research has shown that having too many choices actually leads to poorer decision quality. Have you asked your staff to bring you numerous options in the name of thoroughness? Stick to between five and seven options for optimal decision-making.

You're going for the "instant" option. Sometimes the best choice requires a bit of willpower. For example, you say "yes" to your customer (satisfying the customer is a key priority, right?) and agree to provide a quote for services by day's end today, even though you know that it would be a more accurate, and therefore more profitable, quote if your team had another day to work on it. But humans are notoriously bad at making choices based on outcomes that are future-based. What decisions are you making that are appealing for the near term, but would be even better if you exercised a bit of additional willpower?

The perceived risk is exaggerated. Although some of a leader's decisions truly have important financial and people-related implications, many more fall into less weighty categories. Often, the choices that cause leaders to hesitate have far more to do with ego and reputation than any true harm to one's team or organization. What do you (or your organization) really have to lose by making this choice? Remember that even failure can be an opportunity to learn something, so if that's what's holding you back, reconsider.

You have a "do-it-myself" mindset. The buck does eventually stop with you and there are times when you must make tough choices. Even so, how often do you pull the decisions towards you when one of your team members could easily make the call? The greatest gift you can give as a leader is to develop the decision-making skills of your team members.

Are you cultivating the right balance of deep thought and expedient decision-making? The next time you have a decision to make, Miller suggests using these five guidelines to determine if the choice is worthy of an hour of your time, or less than 10 minutes. Then, start deciding.


About the Author

Chris Bilotta

Christopher Bilotta '77, '84, has extensive experience in talent acquisition and management, recruiting, human resources, finance, accounting and systems. His specific expertise lies in providing customized retained search services to corporate clients and career management, coaching and job search assistance to individuals. Chris is a sought after advisor and mentor dedicated to building high performance organizations and helping people realize their professional goals.

He joined Resource Development Company, Inc. (RDC), a privately held Human Resource consulting firm in 1994 and became a co-owner in 2001. He directed and managed the firm’s retained search practice and helped establish the company as one of the top 20 recruiting firms in the Philadelphia area as ranked by the Philadelphia Business Journal Book of Lists.

Chris’ educational background includes a BS in Business Administration with a major in Accounting and MBA from Drexel University. He is licensed as a Certified Public Accountant and recognized as a Certified Professional Résumé Writer.

He has also been a member of Drexel’s LeBow College of Business MBA Career Services Advisory Council since its inception in 2004 and was named the Chair in 2006. In addition, Chris serves on the Board of Trustees for Saint Basil Academy, a Philadelphia area private high school and is a member on the Board of Advisors for two early-stage companies involved in college athletic recruiting and Web site development.

For more of Chris' columns on leadership and management, visit For his columns on job searching, online branding and other topics, visit

Issue Archive

March 2010
Silence: The Root Cause of Project Failure

May 2010
The Uncommon Practice of Common Purpose

June 2010
Wise Leaders and Planting Trees

July 2010
10 Steps to Effective Leadership

September 2010
Can You Predict Leadership Failures?

October 2010
Follow the Leader

November 2010
Lead While You Manage

January 2011
Driving Change and Making It Stick

February 2011
Become a Great Leader

March 2011
Using Influence to Get Things Done

May 2011
Execute Your Strategy

June 2011
Three Traits Every CEO Needs

July 2011
Activate Your Entrepreneurial Leadership

August 2011
Turning Around Negative Attitudes

October 2011
Building a Better Top Team

November 2011
Look Beyond Results When Assessing Talent

March 2012
The Four Cs of Effective Leadership

May 2012
The 3rd Alternative

June 2012
Why Top Talent Leaves

July 2012
LeBron's Leadership Lessons

August 2012
What Leaders Do Best

September 2012
5 Leadership Lessons You Won't Learn in B-School

October 2012
Four Traits of Collaborative Leaders

November 2012
Winning the Battle for Talent

January 2013
Leadership as Craftsmanship

February 2013
Developing Leadership Principles

March 2013
Handling Employee Exits

May 2013
Leadership Pitfalls

July 2013
Cultivating Creativity

August 2013
Tune In or Be Tuned Out

September 2013
The Wise Leader

November 2013
Stop Being Nice at Work

December 2013
Quiet Leadership

February 2014
The Leadership Bridge

May 2014
Leadership Rules for the New Normal

June 2014
Ensuring Succession Plans Succeed