Collaborative vs. Authoritative Decision-Making

Is your decision-making getting the results you need?


Paul Schur, general manager of Slalom's Atlanta office, discusses two leadership styles of decision-making: authoritative and collaborative. He explains that the best leaders have a balance between both, understanding when to pull their team together to have a collaborative discussion, and when to make a decision and move the business forward.

Paul also shares several stories from his own decision-making experiences and challenges, including the resultant outcomes, positive changes and lessons learned.

Decision-making is an interesting topic for me because you can be authoritative, make the decision and roll forward, or you can be extremely collaborative. Personally, I find myself going in-between these two extremes. So I'm still learning this myself where I want to be able to pull in others' perspective. So I want to understand their points of views, but there is also a point where a decision needs to be made. I am good at making decisions that impact me. That's a very selfish thing to say, but when it comes to decisions and how it impacts other people I tend to really think through the repercussions. I try to oftentimes to go with my gut feeling but also recognize that this is a complex world that we live in and that there can be repercussions.

I would say in the recent history I took a new role and made some organizational changes. And any time change occurs, there are two types of changes. If you're involved in that change it's called evolution and if you're not involved it's called change. So there are a lot of people that felt that the organization has changed and, over time, I felt that it was the right decision and I think it played out to be the right decision after all. Sometimes, not everyone sees it real time but recognizes now that it was the right decision.

Likewise, I made organizational decisions that I went on my gut that were wrong and you can only struggle as an organization so long in what I would call dysfunctional organization or dysfunctional team. So, again, coming to bear admitting that you made a mistake and either reverting back or changing to a new organization structure was important. But I've done both and I will mostly do both going forward. I'm okay with that. I feel as long as you have the team around you to call you out and keep you honest and know the pulse of the business then it allows you to continue moving and making those types of decisions.

Being in an environment where there is very little collaboration, it's a very authoritative decision making. I feel that those organizations tend to have a lot of fear. And in operating in fear, you may get business results out of those types of environments, but you certainly don't get the trust and the connection of your employees. The counter to that, if you have all collaborative decision-making, at times nothing gets to be done. And so while everyone feels they are a part of it, everyone at first feels that there is a connection, at the end of the day you need to make decisions to run the business. So the best leaders tend to have a balance between both, understanding when to pull the team in and have a collaborative discussion, but also when to make the decision and move the business forward.

Paul Schur

Paul is currently the General Manager of Slalom's Atlanta Office. He has over 15 years of consulting experience (10 years with Accenture), including strategic product launches, large outsourcing arrangements, and new digital and mobil...

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