10/11/2013 04:03 pm ET | Updated Dec 11, 2013

Be Decisive

Decision-making is easy -- if done in a reasonable way. And, for me, a reasonable way was to get the background information I needed. Then I listened and listened and listened to those whose views needed to be considered, especially those with whom I disagreed.

Past decisions -- yours or someone else's -- can always be reversed, but a college or university (or any other organization) is ill-served if the reversal is made without adequate information or knowledge about why the original decision was made. As a result, I always wanted the history behind a decision someone else had made.

I liked talking to my predecessors, and I did so for them and for me. In part, my call was pure courtesy. It also served as a sounding board for the decision I wanted to make. While those calls may not have resulted in reversing the position I had decided to take, they did make me feel comfortable because I knew I had the background I needed. As a result, I did not (inadvertently) step on any landmines.

Decisiveness does not mean rashness. A mistake early in a presidency involved a series of budgetary decisions I had to make to stem serious financial bleeding. Although I knew better, I made the decision without the requisite consultation. Despite the need for quick action, there was still time to talk to the different constituencies involved. I just did not take the time. As a result, I spent far more time undoing the damage caused by my (too quick) action than I would have had I simply consulted in the first place.

Remember, too, no decision is a decision. Postponing or trying to otherwise avoid a difficult decision is deciding by default. One cannot hide; one should not want to hide. If you are too fearful to act, you are too weak to serve, or, at least, to serve effectively. So, have the courage of your convictions and make decisions -- judiciously and decisively.

Once made, don't make excuses for your decision. Nothing is as pathetic and un-presidential as someone trying to explain away a decision. Own your decision. And if it turns out to be a bad one based on new information, admit it (rather than make excuses), and then change it.

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