Consultative Decision Making

I decide, with some external input

Consultative decision-making works well when you need to gather expertise. Not all stakeholders have the same knowledge or expertise and you might need to get some help from a limited group or key members of the group. 

  • Slow – Fast 85% 85%
  • Independent – Collaborative 30% 30%
  • Hierarchical – Egalitarian 30% 30%
  • Private – Transparent 40% 40%

Consultative decision-making means asking for input from a few select individuals, but ultimately reserving the decision for yourself. The consultative model is used when you need additional expertise or when you need to curry political favour.

The consultative process is often done one-on-one, but it can also happen in a small group setting.


  • Helps you gauge how the decision will play out politically
  • Gets you additional perspectives beyond your own
  • Gives you access to knowledge you do not possess yourself
  • Opportunity to influence key stakeholders prior to making the decision


  • People may feel excluded and unimportant
  • Might create the perception of internal politics

    The Process

    1. Assess the situation and evaluate the obvious choices
    2. Decide on 1-3 people who have information or perspectives that can help you decide
    3. Ask their opinions (leaving time for them to mull/gather facts if needed)
    4. Make the decision and communicate it
    5. Do not forget to give credit when credit is due


    Common Mistakes, Challenges and Traps

    Throwing others under the bus

    When a leader is questioned by the group for a bad or controversial decision, it’s easy to lay the blame on the people who gave you input. This not only kills their morale, but it ultimately makes you look like a weak leader. If you reserved ultimate authority for the decision, take ultimate responsibility for its outcome.

    Impacted moral on advice/input not followed

    When you ask someone for their input, they can feel entitled to a role in making the final decision. Explicitly retain ownership of the decision by telling folks that even though you are asking for their input, you will be the one to make the final decision.

    Be sure to circle back with the people whose perspectives and inputs did not prevail, thank them, and tell them why you did not choose their recommendation.

    Making the decision seem personal

    If you continually consult the same people in the group, it can appear that you choose feelings and relationships over facts. Make sure to fit the people you consult with to the problem.