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Essential Decision Making Styles & When to Use Them - HRDQ

Essential Decision Making Styles & When to Use Them

As a leader, it’s imperative to have sharp decision-making skills. Whether you’re under pressure or your team is looking to you for direction, having the ability to make confident decisions is a must. Here, we’ll walk you through the four essential decision-making styles and discuss when to use them so you can better lead your team.

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If you are an autocratic leader, you likely favor the directive decision-making style. Those who prefer this style make judgments based on their own experiences and opinions without the input of others. While these types of decision-makers are often rational, straightforward, and quick to choose, they also have no patience for ambiguity. They have difficulty taking advice and responding to those who disagree with their decisions, which can have a negative effect on employee morale.

Directive decision making works very well in the following situations:

  • A team lacks direction and needs to be told exactly how to get back on track.
  • When a high-pressure decision must be made. Directive decision-makers often thrive in stressful conditions due to their ability to make choices quickly and rationally.
  • When it’s important to have a clear chain of command. In many work settings, knowing who to bring a critical problem to is important to getting it resolved quickly and correctly.
  • Environments that don’t require creativity. The directive decision-making style works best when workers don’t feel the need to break away from the norm, are content with following set rules, and enjoy their daily routine.


You can trust that a conceptual decision-maker will take every possibility and perspective into account before coming to a conclusion. They enjoy creating holistic, long-term plans that benefit multiple people and scenarios. Conceptual decision-makers rarely follow a narrow-minded path that simply gets you from “Point A” to “Point B.” However, because they must take so many views into account, it’s not viable for them to have and understand all the data involved for each possibility. While they aren’t bothered when lacking data, they are not as equipped to make choices that drive immediate results and provide solutions that have no room for errors.

Conceptual decision making works well when:

  • You have the time and resources to test multiple solutions before coming to a final consensus.
  • There are competing ideas that must be taken into consideration in order to reach a decision.
  • You often deal with unpredictable environments that require creative and innovative ideas to move forward.
  • Long-term solutions must be made that benefit the overall health of the company, employees, or the situation in question.


The analytical decision-making style is all about having the facts, information, and data to support a solution. These kinds of decision-makers will “fact check” their conclusion by requesting information from others and asking advice to confirm or deny the decision they’ve reached. Their attention to detail allows them to be comfortable with ambiguous situations, but this style can also be quite time-consuming. If you need a judgment call made immediately, analytical decision-makers won’t be best for the task.

However, the analytical style does work well in the following settings:

  • When there is little room for error. Analytical decision-makers will carefully examine data to ensure they reach the most accurate solution possible.
  • Low-stress situations in which large decisions do not need to be made very quickly.
  • When a cause-and-effect relationship needs to be determined. Analytical decision-makers are experts and rifling through information to identify correlations.
  • When working with a diverse team of experts that can provide information on many facets of the problem at hand.


The behavioral decision-making style is a group-oriented approach to reaching solutions. Those who prefer this model care deeply about the knowledge and information each team member has to offer about the problem. They’ll often hold open discussions to brainstorm pros and cons that will help them determine the best course of action. Ultimately, the final decision is left up to the leader to make.

The behavioral decision-making style is beneficial when:

  • Your goal is to appease the group by coming to a decision that takes each individual into account.
  • Dealing with low-stress decisions. Behavioral decision makers handle conflict poorly and can become overwhelmed when a high-impact solution must be reached.
  • Making changes to company culture. Employee input is imperative to understanding what your team wants to see improve in the workplace.
  • You’re not searching for an emerging pattern, but rather reaching conclusions based off of past experiences.

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We hope you've enjoyed learning about these four essential decision-making styles and when to use them. If you’d like to improve your decision-making skills, explore the full HRDQ Decision Making training materials collection today! Our training consultants are here to equip you with the tools you need to thrive. Soon, you’ll be making more confident and effective decisions than ever before. Start improving today!

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About our author

Bradford R. Glaser

Brad is President and CEO of HRDQ, a publisher of soft-skills learning solutions, and HRDQ-U, an online community for learning professionals hosting webinars, workshops, and podcasts. His 35+ years of experience in adult learning and development have fostered his passion for improving the performance of organizations, teams, and individuals.