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Leaders are defined by the decisions they make and the results they produce.

Most executives know this and it weighs on them.  Making high-stakes decisions is risky and takes a toll.

As anxiety sets in, we fall into a trap. We start worrying about making the decision rather than thinking about making the best decision.

This happens when we substitute action for accuracy, swiftness for substance. "We can fix what doesn't work later," is the consolation.

Certainly, we can never have perfect information or foresee all negative externalities.

But in our haste to act, we often overlook the most obvious problems.

The result is a poor decision, which unfortunately, only becomes evident in hindsight.

Bad decisions hurt our company, our career, and our confidence. We begin to worry that we don't have what it takes to lead.

In the words of the late Edwin Friedman, we develop "a failure of nerve."

Have you been in a situation where you made a hasty decision because of stress that in retrospect you wish you had done differently? Did it startle your confidence as a leader?

In this post, I focus on the process of decision-making. When the pressure is on, the steps leading up to making a decision are what set the stage for a successful one. Here is where confidence and courage are vital.

Below are five areas for cultivating clear-minded decisions.