Saturday 1 October 2011

Right Vs Popular Decisions

We make many decisions in our daily life. From deciding whether to step out from our beds early in the morning, the food that we eat for breakfast and decisions that we make at work. None of us are free from deciding things for ourselves. In all cases, deep in out hearts we also know exactly why we decide what we decided. Whether or not we share those reasons with others could be a different matter.

When we make decisions which will affect others or more people, things could be more challenging. Some people fully understand how our decisions would affect them, some don't. Sometimes, we ourselves may not be able to exactly project those implications.

If we could agree that people are inherently selfish, it could be easily assumed that people will react to the decisions we make based on their self interests. For example, if our decisions provide them with better benefits, I am sure nobody would complaint. If however, our decisions restrict their behavior or require them to make more effort, some may not support our decisions. 

The higher we are in the hierarchy of our society, the wider the impact of our decisions would be. Naturally, the response to such decisions would be stronger, especially when a larger segment of the society are unhappy. Another challenge is about balancing the immediate needs of people with a more sustainable future i.e. ensuring our children and theirs would not suffer from the consequences of the downside of what we decide today. From experience, we tend to look at a shorter time horizons and may let the future be dealt with by others. This is perfectly selfish.

The impact of any decision is also influenced by the values of the decision maker. If we as a society could not be bothered about corruption and abuse of power, we would not give much attention towards governance, rule of law and justice. I ma sure we could look at many other part in the world where compromise on values and ethics, at the societal level, eventually lead organisations or even countries towards bankruptcy, both financially and values. Without the pressure from the society towards good governance, it would be very difficult for the rule of law and justice to prevail. So, we decide the kind of environment that we live in, by deciding who should be making decisions on our behalf.

This is where leadership comes into the equation. A leader would have to decide what is in the best interest of the society and balance the needs and demands of many pockets of people with different interests and wants. A leader who is weak would normally be indecisive, as balance those needs, as his personal needs and wants, would not be easy. For every decision, many people would be unhappy. So, a weak leader tend not to decide, prolonging the problems rather than taking responsibility for his decisions.

If we could accept that not everybody would support any decision, the guiding principle for any decision would be what is in the greater good of the society at large. For example, if by sharing more opportunities, we as a society would be more competitive, then a more merit-based system should be preferred. Off course, those who are benefiting from any golf-liked system where some are given "handicap" would not like to compete more to proof their worth. A great leader would recognise this challenge and would proceed doing the right thing.

In essence, a right decision need not be necessarily popular and a popular decision need not be necessarily right.

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