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All-Or-Nothing-Thinking Vs Not Giving Up – Making Decisions That Are Good But Not Perfect

Written by: Lars Friedrich, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Why is finding your personal & natural play to face arising challenges as a leader without going to extremes and dismissing the other for making ‘good decisions’ as a fundamental leadership skill always worth cultivating?

During my ten years in the Special Forces of the Military, I often had to operate independently in chaotic, high-stakes environments.

And as the designated leader of my team or combined teams of up to hundreds of people under my command depending on the assignment, I regularly needed to make ‘good’, aka appropriate decisions in that particular moment for that specific task in unpredictable settings where simply no decision was ‘perfect’.

Almost everyone in a leadership position knows that there is none! Never!

And the primary settings of those environments I experienced during those ten years were no different to those as an executive in international & intercultural positions for 15 years after I left the military.

Because both were characterised as being challenging, fast-paced, and ever-changing, with the permanent pressure of quick and decisive decision-making to find ways forward when every probable option involved a certain level of compromise and uncertainty.

One period in my life was most important for my leadership development.

Welcome To ‘Selection’

The months-long selection course for joining the Special Forces Tier 1 Unit – internally referred to as ‘Selection’ – turns a leader inside out and scrutinises multiple leadership skills & capacities, involving problem-solving in situations specifically designed to be less-than-ideal and eventually making the leader fail.

Yes, this might sound harsh, but that's precisely when a character's true colours show – when failure is evidently on the agenda, no excuses are left, no bailing out with words is possible, and no one is left to blame!

For instance, when I was designated as a leader, my group had to find ways to collect & carry many heavy & awkwardly shaped objects thrown out of the van driving in front of us. In addition to our already taken personal gear with weapons & ammunition, and over a long distance through a series of obstacles while keeping everything from touching the ground or leaving behind.

Welcome to another typical day at "Selection", I had voluntarily applied for and was chosen based on my already displayed skills and other successfully finished courses. Of physical, mental & academic nature, I might add.

And while I was already actively carrying all that stuff, my objective as the designated leader was to keep the group together, delegate & reorganise the transport of all the collected items when necessary, and reach the set destination on time.

Leadership execution at its finest!

Needless to say, neither my group nor I knew where that destination was and how long that test was meant to last – so much about adding a high level of uncertainty into the already existing physical, emotional & mental pressure equation.

And no matter what I did, how I delegated and constantly reorganised how all that stuff was to be carried by whom, this test of my leadership sucked – big time!

But when it was finally over – and I still don't know how long it lasted, as it felt like forever – it showed everybody involved their unique limits.

In hindsight, besides passing ‘Selection’ after more enduring & never-ending tasks eventually, I was taught invaluable experiences & leadership lessons that gave me a considerable advantage in my following corporate career and operating my business later.

All-Or-Nothing-Thinking vs Not Giving Up

As a leader, it is always your job to find ways to do the best you can with what you've got without whining or complaining about the circumstances, blaming others, and giving up!

Because this giving up mentality is a mixture of all-or-nothing thinking & learned helplessness, and both are far too often displayed in today's society & leadership culture, with acquired ideas such as:

  • If I can't do it according to a hypothetical, theoretical, academic, imaginary & ideal way, then it's not worth doing at all.

  • And if my situation is too challenging, and I can do nothing to improve it, there's no point in even trying.

  • Therefore, giving up is a considerable & justified option.

And I have absolutely no doubt that you have already experienced that mentality in professional environments!

Back To Selection

During the last year of my active service as a tried & tested Tier 1 Operator, I was assigned to plan & supervise ‘Selection’ as the responsible Commanding Officer because of all the actively gained experiences & expertise I could bring to the table.

A question of accountability & credibility, for sure!

And one sad-to-watch version of ‘giving up’ I witnessed during that time was when a candidate appointed as a leader didn't engage mentally & emotionally with the challenge but tried to solve it with sheer physical effort.

Because he didn't even bother to figure out an (emotionally)intelligent way to get the job done and was more focused on ‘not appearing to be weak’, ‘being a savage’ and ‘killing it’ as his chosen path to success and completing the given task.

And then, halfway through, he and his group got utterly overwhelmed!

He crushed under the weight of his given leadership task and also did his best to drag the others involved in the challenge down with him, which involved a lot of plaintive shouting & yelling at them about ‘trying harder’.

Needless to say, the whole team was doomed to fail, and because of this, they fell apart!

And after two more leadership ‘mishaps’ where he openly showed his character's true colours, the candidate was eventually pulled from ‘Selection’.

You also might know, or even still experience, that kind of leadership behaviour all too well, regardless of your authority level, no?

Finding Equilibrium

Without a doubt, in most corporate & entrepreneurial environments, a typical forward, mostly active-driven approach is sometimes necessary and required, and you cannot succeed without it.

But the approach and the ability to ‘try hard’ or even ‘try harder’ are only beneficial when combined with also ‘trying emotionally intelligent’.

Because as a leader, regardless of your role, profession & gender, you need both! Either one without the other is not enough!

And it often requires achieving equilibrium between seemingly opposing elements and making decisions that are not perfect. Because they never are.

Which will always involve a certain level of compromise & uncertainty! The perks of being in a leadership position!

But finding your personal & natural play to face arising challenges as a leader without going to extremes and dismissing the other for making ‘good decisions’ is a fundamental leadership skill always worth cultivating.

Precisely what will set you apart with your unique leadership style!

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Lars Friedrich, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Lars Friedrich is an expert in personal & professional leadership transformations refined with a touch of Zen. As a former Officer & Special Forces Operator, executive in international & intercultural corporate positions and founder of his boutique business, he has vast accumulated experience, expertise & knowledge in leadership, resilience, endurance, commitment, persistence & dedication. Furthermore, Lars Friedrich trained in traditional Japanese Martial Arts for 42 years and frequently travels to Japan for his ongoing tuition, which amplifies his experience. With family ties & homes in Australia, Finland & Germany, he is proudly serving & guiding male & female leaders via shared knowledge & passion.



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