Review: “How Leaders Decide” by Greg Bustin


22 July 2019

Human beings make hundreds of choices on a daily basis. We make them from the time we get out of bed in the morning to the moment we slip back into it at night. Most of the decisions we make are insignificant and we’re often barely aware of the choices we proceed with (like the decision to pick up a hairbrush and brush your hair, for example). Other decisions are weighty and stop us in our tracks, demanding we consider them intentionally and choose wisely. It’s at this intersect that strong leaders are most easily identifiable. Where others might balk at making a call when the stakes are at their highest, a leader is a person willing to step up and make a pivotal decision and ensure it’s followed up with timely action. 

In our July book of the month, How Leaders Decide: A Timeless Guide to Making Tough Choices, author Greg Bustin skips the step-by-step instructional on the science of deciding and invites us to look back in time at little-known, real-world decisions leading up to some of the most important events in history. Designed to be read in weekly installments, each of the 52 chapters presents a fascinating and well-researched story of a key figure who made great decisions or, alternatively, whose bad decisions brought about destructive, sometimes even fatal, outcomes.  

Greg makes this interesting read practical by facilitating the reader’s personal application through a series of thought-provoking comments and questions. How Leaders Decide is a valuable source of leadership inspiration that will benefit every reader, whether studied personally or used as a base for group discussions. It brings fresh insight by focusing on the key decisions that helped trigger an event, rather than on the event itself. Each intriguing account encourages us to explore the reason a decision was made and ponder the outcomes of the individual approaches notable figures took in making their critical choices. 

The book makes you wonder what you would do if you were in the shoes of that decision-maker in history.

It’s impossible to fully anticipate every event and control the outcome of our every decision, but Greg’s collection of leadership studies provides us with a hindsight view of the past that can better equip us for making good choices in the future. It’s an enjoyable read whether undertaken weekly or devoured in a single day. I couldn’t wait to go on to subsequent chapters, but I also look forward to taking Greg’s advice to ruminate over it week by week and intentionally apply it as a learning tool.   

A few of the historic insights Greg provides in this book that fascinated me most include: 

1. Vince Lombardi’s tough coaching decisions that transformed the Green Bay Packers from losers into perennial champions
2. Martin Luther King Jr.’s impromptu decision to set aside prepared notes and speak from his heart, leading to the delivery of his famous I Have a Dream speech
3. Nelson Mandela’s decision to put the good of all South Africans before the idea of retaliation toward his previous oppressors

From Marie Curie to The Beatles, the bold decisions taken by past leaders have shaped history and continue to impact our present-day lives. Read the book for Greg’s timeless guide to decision-making that will inspire your leadership journey for years to come.

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