Leadership, Decision Making and Judgment Texas Hold-em Style

I’ve often suggested to leadership groups that leading people is very similar in nature to playing cards — specifically the poker game Texas Hold ’Em. It’s a game of chance based upon knowing the probability that certain cards will be dealt at certain times and then making decisions based upon those probabilities.

For example, with the poker game, the primary information to know is that after the first two cards are dealt to each player at the table, there is a 75 percent chance that the next three cards dealt (the “flop”) will not improve the hand. Knowing that probability determines when to act and when not to.

Players can decide what to do from several options. They can decide to “fold” (meaning lay their cards down) if they don’t think they have a good enough hand to continue playing. They can decide to “check” (bet no additional money and wait for the next card) if they think that they have a pretty good hand. They can decide to “raise” (bet additional money and wait for the next card) if they think that they have a superior hand to anyone else at the table.

The one absolute with this game is that most professional poker players know the probabilities because they’ve studied the game, played the game over and over and know when to act and when not to. That is why they win the majority of the time. Conversely, amateurs do not know those probabilities because they haven’t done their homework and that is why they lose the majority of the time.

I think the parallel to leadership, decision-making and judgment as it relates to interacting and managing people is very comparable.

Truth Be Told, Leaders with the responsibility for the success and development of others have to do their homework better than anyone else so that they, in helping others to win the majority of the time, can also win accordingly.

Published by The Leadership Consortium

Maxie Carpenter was formerly Vice President of HR & Talent Development for Wal-Mart Stores. After a 27-year career, he began to pursue a number of other interests, which included alternative education, nonprofits, consulting, writing and public speaking.

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