The 3 Dharmas of decision-making for entrepreneurs & leaders


By Maj Sunil Shetty (SM) Retd.

Decision-making is tough and it is toughest when you have to take a call for your team, people, or the nation, if you’re a political leader.

Whether the call is taken following a scientifically structured team exercise or by an individual in a spur of the moment, the onus of a bad outcome will come to rest on the shoulder of the decision maker – be it a leader, sportsman, entrepreneur or a soldier.

During my mentoring sessions with early-stage startups and young founders; I have noticed how budding entrepreneurs often oscillate between “what to do” or “not to do” because they do understand that they have to bear the burden of a failed outcome.

According to Sally Kempton, an internationally recognized teacher of meditation and Yoga philosophy, “when life hands you a difficult choice,” try the “time-tested process for discovering your dharma—the right action for this situation.”

Personally, for me, the dharma of decision-making is guided by three rules:

1. A bad decision is better than no decision: 

This week India’s leadership is weighing various options against terrorists and their sponsors following the Pulwama terrorist attack that martyred 40 soldiers of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). It is never an easy call- because a decision can cut both ways for a political leader. 

A true leader, however does understand that a decision may not yield the desired results as planned or hoped. Nevertheless, a decision has to be made and executed because a bad decision is better than no decision.

During a mentoring session, Rishab Hurshan, founder & CEO of PalNesto, a social media based marketplace, well articulated his dilemma and sense of responsibility, when he said, “Major, the final decision will be mine and if the selected vendor fails delivery the right product, it will be on me” but I have to take the call” within the limited options.

PalNesto, a bootstraped startup, become profitable within its first year of operations and to scale up it has to roll out a marketplace app. After weeks of due diligence and negotiation with potential developers, the startup homed-in on two vendors. The challenges faced by Rishab’s team is whom to bet on;  Vendor A- meets the cost parameter but doesn’t come with a credible reference.

Vendor B – comes with a credible reference but is outside the budget.

As a mentor, I  understand the pressure Rishab is experiencing and he is handling it well for a young entrepreneur.

An entrepreneur should learn to handle pressure and take timely decision irrespective of its outcome.

2. Decision-making is never in hindsight:

Decision-makers do not have the advantage of hindsight; they have to take a call in the spur of the moment – in real life situations. This is also experienced by soldiers and sportsmen who are always hardpressed by a lack of time.

During the recently concluded T20 cricket match between India and New Zealand,  Indian wicketkeeper-batsman, Dinesh Karthik had made a call to take his team across the finish line- but he failed! Karthik, like the media and spectator, could not have strategised the victor with the advantage of hindsight.  He had to make a decision within a fraction a second.

The decision-making dilemma becomes even more compounded when faced with a time crunch and leaders don’t get to make decisions in the hindsight. 

3. Be prepared to shoulder the end result:

Sally Kempton says, “your personal dharma is the path you follow toward the highest expression of your own nature and toward the fulfillment of your responsibilities to yourself, to others, to your society, and to the planet.”

“I genuinely believed that I could hit a six,” said Karthik as he took the onus of his decision to finish the game. Rishab of PalNesto would have to follow his personal dharma so do India’s leadership while planning to respond for Pulwama.

According to Sally Kempton “contemplation of personal dharma is so tricky and so vital.”

The decision-making process could happen on an impulse or through a deliberate team exercises, either way, it has to be implemented depending on a situation, response-time and scale of the action and the decision maker should be prepared to should the end result.

(The author is founder and CEO of Views expressed are personal.)