When problems unfold, leaders often look for ways to absolve themselves of responsibility—especially if they stand to lose face, favor, standing or will incur someone’s wrath.
Problems don’t simply just go away if un-addressed. They fester. They get worse. Then they blow up.
Taking responsibility means being there and facing the consequences, rejection, or revelation of ineptitude or weakness.
Leading authentically starts with being in charge. It refers to taking responsibility for the plans and actions that occur under your watch. (If you want to split hairs, glance at my explanation of accountability v responsibility.) Consider Captain Sullenberger, pilot of the Flight 1549 that crashed into New York City’s Hudson River. Even after he realized that the plane was in one piece after hitting the water, he worried about the difficulties that still lay ahead. The aircraft was sinking: everyone had to be evacuated quickly.
The Buck Stops with Leaders
As entrepreneur and venture capitalist Brad Feld emphasizes here, being responsible is one of the most admirable traits of an effective leader:
Many of the strong CEOs I work with owned whatever was going on at their company. There was simplicity in this—no blame, no excuses, no justification. They just took ownership.
When I step back and ponder this, the CEOs I respect the most are the ones who take responsibility for the actions of their company. Good or bad, successful or not, they don’t shirk any responsibility, blame anyone, or try to make excuses. They just own things, and if they need to be fixed, they fix them.
Idea for Impact: Taking Responsibility is Empowering
Ignoring a problem and passing blame is negligent.
The most effective leaders I’ve known have the humility and the courage to acknowledge when there’s been a mistake under their watch, avoid blaming others or the circumstances, and aspire to make amends or learn from their failures.
Often, individual action is the only real way to recognize and solve problems. Take ownership now.
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