A harda** in a pastel floral dress

Pastel watercolor of pink flowers and sage-green leavesOnce upon a time, I wore pastel dresses, some of which were floral.

I can’t quite believe it myself. I seldom even wear dresses now, never mind pastel anything. Though I do have a couple of (not pastel) floral Hawaiian-style shirts.

Dress notwithstanding…

… a consultant at the company I was working for at the time called me a hardass.

It was a compliment; he liked that I was decisive.

That wasn’t the only time I was called a hardass. It happened in a problem-solving meeting, too, and if I recall correctly, that time it was not a compliment, though it was still about making decisions.

Managers need to make decisions.

More than ever before, managers need to make decisions. (Yes, “more than ever before” is becoming a bit of a trite phrase, but let’s face it, it’s real and it’s true.)

For many reasons, from remote and hybrid work to the speed at which the world moves these days, decision-making needs to be – and is being – pushed down from senior executive levels through to the front-line management ranks.

The first time I heard this, I shook my head.

No way, I thought, would senior leaders be on board with this – no matter how much sense it might make.

But I keep hearing it, more and more. The latest? In a FORTUNE magazine podcast episode, interviewing Søren Skou, CEO of shipping giant Maersk. He makes the point very clearly: for organizations to succeed, managers need to be making more of the decisions.

But if this is to work, managers need more than just responsibility.

If they are given the responsibility for making decisions, they must also be given the authority and autonomy to do so.

They must be allowed to make mistakes.

And they must be supported.

They need to learn how to make decisions. What are the guiding principles of the organization? What are – dare I say it – the company values that guide decisions? How do they know which decisions are theirs to make, versus when they need to refer the issue to a more-senior leader? What is, and what isn’t, aligned with corporate strategy?

Senior leaders grow into these understandings over time. (Usually, anyway …) But managers, especially front-line managers, haven’t had the time to absorb it all. So they need explicit guidance.

Better decisions, deeper bench strength.

Companies that make better decisions do better. (I know – shocking, right?)

Companies that have deep, resourceful leadership bench strength … do better.

Succession planning isn’t just about your C-suite. It’s about your managers and leaders all up and down and throughout the organization.

Take care of your first-line managers now, and they’ll take care of you later, as they rise to executive levels.


So, yes, first-line / front-line managers are becoming more and more responsible for decision-making. Which – as I’ve said here – they’ve typically not been taught how to do.

Let’s fix that. I’m opening the doors on a Community for first-line managers: a Community of Practice, Learning, and Experience, offering first-line managers the support they need. Check it out.