November 9, 2022

The Four Decision Making Styles: Which One’s Your Style?

You’ve probably already heard of managerial styles and leadership styles, but did you know that there are decision-making styles too?

Decision-making styles refer to an individual's typical approach in choosing the best alternative. This can also include how someone usually settles on a solution to a problem.

Learning about your decision-making style can help you grow professionally and make you a better leader. So read on to learn more about it!

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What Is Decision-Making?

Decision-making is the process of evaluating options and selecting the best course of action.

When making a decision, it's important to consider all of the relevant factors, including costs, benefits, risks, and opportunities. The ability to make sound decisions is essential for success in both personal and professional life. Good decision-makers are able to identify the key issues, gather relevant information, weigh the pros and cons, and make a choice that advances their goals.

Why Do You Need to Know Your Decision-Making Style?

Everyone makes decisions. In fact, one study shows that the average person makes over 200 decisions every day on food alone! And if you’re a leader or a manager, you’re probably making more big ideas and decisions compared to the average joe.

decision making styles

Identifying your decision-making style allows you to understand your strengths and weaknesses. As a leader, you should never underestimate the importance of self-awareness.

Remember, you aren’t shackled to your predispositions. Self-knowledge can allow you to maximize your strengths and address your weaknesses.

What Are the Four Decision-Making Styles?

According to the Decision Style Theory by Alan Rowe and James Boulgarides, your decision-making style depends on where you fall on two spectrums:

  • ambiguity vs. structure
  • technical vs. social 

The first spectrum examines the decision-maker’s comfort zones. Ambiguity refers to situations that are flexible and somewhat open-ended. On the other hand, structure refers to contexts where expectations are clearly defined and where there are standard and recurring processes in place. 

The second spectrum refers to what the decision-maker usually values. If the decision-maker leans towards the technical, this means that they’re more results-oriented. If they lean towards social, that means they value group harmony.

Combining the two spectrums allows for four distinct decision-making styles: 

  • Directive decision-makers
  • Analytic decision-makers
  • Conceptual decision-makers
  • Behavioral decision-makers

People who prefer structure and value the technical are usually directive decision-makers. Individuals who are comfortable with ambiguity yet value the technical are analytic decision-makers.

On the other hand, individuals who lean towards the social and are comfortable with ambiguity are people who use the conceptual decision style. Finally, behavioral decision-makers are people who value social but prefer structure.

Each decision-making style has its strengths and weaknesses. There are also certain scenarios that benefit from a particular decision-making style over others.

decision making styles

What Is the Directive Decision-Making Style?

People who usually engage in directive decision-making process tend to rely on their past experiences and own knowledge when it comes to making decisions. They also base their decisions on standard operating procedures and rules. 

If there’s a usual way to solve a problem, that's what they'll follow. They trust in tried and tested methods.

Their strengths usually include:

  • makes decisions quickly
  • persistent in moving forward
  • doesn’t waste time
  • task-oriented

Their weaknesses usually include:

  • doesn’t normally seek advice
  • doesn’t tolerate unclear or abstract ideas
  • discomfort in accepting other opinions
  • isn’t used to thinking outside of the box to create new plans
  • may seem impulsive
decision making styles

Many directive decision-makers are no-nonsense kinds of people who can make great short-term decisions. They work well in situations that are stable and predictable—especially when there are already best practices established.

The directive style may be less suited for more complex situations with a lot of moving parts.


A company's mission is to streamline its customer service process. The directive decision-maker in this scenario would be more likely to come up with a plan that includes standardizing the scripts that customer service representatives use.

Tip to Maximize This Style

Leaders need to have up-to-date knowledge on best practices in their industry. It’s helpful to create a database of these best practices for easy access later on.

What Is the Analytical Decision-Making Style?

People who engage in analytic decision-making can only decide once they're sure they’ve considered all the possible options. People who use this style need a lot of data before they can move forward with a decision.

decision making styles

Their strengths usually include:

  • complies available data
  • pays attention to details
  • considers and reviews all options
  • adapts to the information presented

Their weaknesses usually include:

  • at risk for over-thinking
  • requires a lot of time when making decisions
  • uncomfortable with risks

People who use the analytical style shine in situations that are not time-sensitive and don’t have an obvious “right” answer. These situations benefit from exploring all of the possible solutions.


A company is trying to decide whether to outsource its production or keep it in-house. In this scenario, a leader who uses the analytic decision style would want to compare the cost of production, the quality of the product, and the delivery time. They would also consider the impact on the company’s reputation.

Tip to Maximize This Style

When gathering data, make sure to consult with both industry experts and non-expert stakeholders. That way, you get a well-rounded perspective.

decision making styles

What Is the Conceptual Decision-Making Style?

Individuals who engage in the conceptual style decision-making are big picture thinkers and naturally collaborative. They aren’t satisfied with bandaid solutions. Instead, they look for holistic and long-lasting solutions.

Their strengths usually include:

  • recognizes underlying problems
  • integrates different options
  • uses creative problem-solving
  • makes unique connections
  • willing to take risks

Their weaknesses usually include:

  • translating ideas into concrete actions
  • planning and implementing ideas
decision making styles

Vague situations involving unknown or evolving factors that require complex or multi-layer decisions can benefit from this decision-making style. These unpredictable situations often require long-term and collaborative planning.

The conceptual decision-making style is not suited for situations that require clear and immediate answers and solutions. 


A company is trying to decide how to restructure its sales team. The conceptual decision-maker in this scenario would want to consider the long-term goal of the company and integrate that with the current needs of the sales team. They would also look at how other teams in the company are structured and see if there are any best practices that could be applied to the sales team.

Tip to Maximize This Style

Leaders need to give themselves ample time to experiment with different solutions.

RELATED: Leadership Vs Management: 5 Things You Should Know

What Is the Behavioral Decision-Making Style?

Leaders who are group-oriented often use behavioral decision-making. Their goal is usually to maintain harmony and find a solution that makes everyone happy.

Their strengths usually include:

  • considerate of others
  • seeks advice from other people
  • engages in the consultation process
  • allows stakeholders to feel included in the process

Their weaknesses usually include:

  • discomfort with conflict
  • can be seen as “people pleasers”

The behavioral style is very beneficial in situations where success depends on stakeholder buy-in.


A team is trying to decide what software to use for their project management. The behavioral decision-maker in this scenario would want to involve as many stakeholders as possible in the decision. They would also consider using a voting process to make sure that the majority of people are happy with the final decision.

Tip to Maximize This Style

Leaders need to facilitate group decision-making and discussions in a democratic way. It’s important to challenge old ideas respectfully. This paves the way for new ideas to emerge.

What Are the Four Decision-Making Models?

There are four main models of decision-making:


The rational model is based on logical reasoning and takes into account all of the available information. This can be a good approach for simple decisions, but it can also be time-consuming and may not always lead to the best decision.


The bounded rational model is a more realistic approach that takes into account the limitations of human cognition. This means considering only a limited amount of information and using heuristics, or mental shortcuts, to arrive at a decision. Although this model is less than perfect, it can often lead to faster and more practical decisions.


The intuitive model relies on gut feeling and instinct rather than logical reasoning. Intuitive decision-making can be helpful in complex situations where there's too much information to process logically. However, it's important to be aware of potential biases when using this approach.


The creative model encourages individuals to think outside the box and come up with new and innovative solutions. This model is often used in business, but it can also be helpful in making personal decisions when you're faced with a challenging problem.

Which Decision-Making Style Do Successful Leaders Use?

The short answer to this question is--all of them! Leaders benefit from understanding the advantages and disadvantages of the different styles. 

It’s normal for you to have a predisposition towards a particular decision-making style, but it's important to be aware of your biases so you can course-correct and avoid the pitfalls of your decision-making style. It’s also good to note that some leaders can actually have more than one decision-making style.

Some situations may call for a more blended approach where you use strategies from two or more decision-making styles. Leaders should have enough flexible decision-making skills to adjust to the demands of the situation.

Remember, leaders should not be stagnant. Their management styles should evolve as their organization becomes more complex.

How Does This Impact My Team?

Managers need to know their team decision-making styles. That way, they know who to tap when different problem-solving situations arise.

It’s also helpful to train your team, especially up-and-coming leaders, about decision-making styles. That way, they can collaborate more effectively with one another.

How Do You Figure Out Your Style?

Finding out where you fall on the two spectrums (ambiguity vs. structure and technical vs. social) should help you identify your decision-making style. If you’re having a tough time placing yourself along the two spectrums, it might be easier to examine your day-to-day life.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • How do I usually make decisions in my personal life?
  • How do I handle stress?
  • Am I comfortable with having many options?
  • Do I usually take my time to decide? Or do I need to have an answer right away?
  • Am I more concerned about the people in my life? Or are my goals more important?

While the work setting may be different, your answers to these questions can provide you with some important insights on how you make choices. If you’re still lost, you can always get feedback from the people who know you well.

Final Thoughts

Decision-making is a natural part of your daily life regardless of your position in an organization. Once you become a leader, though, the stakes are higher. Your decisions can have an impact on your team culture and your organization.

Remember, there’s no one right decision-making style for all leaders. The best way to find out what works for you is to experiment with different styles and take note of the results.

Free up some time to figure out your decision-making style and learn about the others as well. That way, you can easily cope with the demands of different business scenarios.

You should also be open to feedback from your team. After all, they’re the ones who directly experience the impact of your decisions.


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