It Is Easier To Ask For Forgiveness Than Permission

This is my thirty-fifth weekly Blog regarding the state of leadership in America. Most people in leadership positions do not want to make a decision or start down a particular path unless they are personally convinced by the analysis of the available information and data that they have a ninety-nine percent chance of making the right decision, or going in the right direction. However, with the fast pace of change in the world today and demanding deadlines to meet, waiting for the near perfect solution prior to making a decision can hamper the ability of an organization to remain competitive. Supervisors who institute a strict methodology to be followed to generate a decision will quickly fall victim to their own rigid process. Inflexibility in leadership will soon turn into leadership rigor mortis and a poor leader will choose to do nothing rather than take the chance of making a bad decision. Good leaders understand early on that the ability to weigh options through employing a flexible and collaborative form of decision-making are essential for generating sound decisions. They do not need reams of data or a ninety-nine percent chance of being right before they are willing to act. Typically, good leaders target a seventy-five percent chance of being right and then they will take action and adjust on the move, relying on their innate leadership ability to guide them. The problem is that they may work for a poor leader who does need the ninety-nine percent solution. Consequently, good leaders are faced with the dilemma of seeing the need to act, of being willing to act, and of knowing how to act, but realizing that the authority to act will not be forthcoming. In these situations, asking for permission to act is pointless and most likely will generate a response from a higher level poor leader that will clearly restrict any independent action. For this reason, good leaders who strongly believe in the need to act for the best interests of the organization, its customers, and the people in it will often not wait for the authority to take action from a poor leader nor will they ask permission to act. Instead, they will take sensible and measured actions in areas where there is no clear plan of action or an official order which restricts action. Good leaders understand the risks associated with independent action and accept responsibility especially if problems arise from such actions. In those cases it’s easier to ask for forgiveness and honestly explain your motives. If the action taken was successful, then most likely all will be forgiven. But, if the action results in failure, then a good leader must be prepared for any repercussions from his or her actions. In an organization with proactive and effective leadership, no one should have to ask for either permission or forgiveness to take needed actions.
Paul Okum has 40 years’ experience with the Federal Government in the Departments of Transportation, Interior, Defense and Army in numerous leadership positions, including being a US Army officer and a human resources director. Mr. Okum has written ”Leadership DNA,” a provocative and useful guide book allowing readers to broaden their understanding about identifying, selecting, and developing natural born leaders. This guide book shows you the various aspects of leadership, including examining good leaders’ behavior patterns as well as learning how to achieve your objectives and deal with poor managers that can potentially cripple you and your organization.
For more information about Paul Okum and Leadership DNA, visit

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