The R word and Leadership


Leadership begins with the big R. That’s right the R word! What’s the difference between a follower and a leader? A true leader always accepts responsibility. News flash – as a leader, anything that happens on your watch is your responsibility whether you like it or not.

This level of responsibility is compounded by your leadership influence, and leaders who cannot accept this do not deserve to lead in any organization. Here is the thing-Leadership isn’t about blaming others, but realizing any accountability will be solely with the leader.

We are not looking for perfection in any leader, we look for people who see mistakes as a chance for opportunity, growth and improvement, not an opportunity to blame shift. Great leaders will only point the finger at one person – themselves. There are no victories won by participating in the blame game.

Blame doesn’t inspire, it breeds malcontent and discord. Taking it a step further, it creates mistrust in a toxic environment. Real leaders understand that the minute they stir the pot, the more it gets complicated and it becomes a malicious cycle of never ending accusations.

The most unproductive leadership practice is pointing the finger at someone. We’ve all done it at some point in our lives. And let’s face it, it absolves us from responsibility and makes us feel better to know it’s not our fault.

It’s just human nature. It’s much easier to talk about what someone else did or didn’t do, so that you are off the hook. That can be a very short sighted on any given situation.

Here is why Responsibility goes both ways too: Great leaders are people who are quick to offer praise others for their successes. A real leader will never claim credit for what someone else has done. On the flip side, when things go poorly, they don’t point fingers and lay blame. Rather, they accept responsibility for what was done and work to solve the problem.

People who are afraid of admitting failure shouldn’t seek leadership roles. In a lot of ways leading is about taking risks and having the courage to take one hundred percent responsibility for what happened.

Here are three ways you can turn accountability into your leadership advantage:

Own it, don’t spread it

It’s so easy to point the finger and find scapegoats. When you point fingers rather than owning the mistakes, you are irreparably damaging someone else’s credibility and possibly their future with your organization. Most importantly, you are spending a lot of your energy and  time by focusing on finding someone else to take responsibility and that can be self-defeating in most occasions.

Learn and succeed from your mistakes

Sometimes valuable lessons are disguised as mistakes. Don’t run away from them. When you do that you do not examine what really went wrong and thus miss the real value of what could be a learning opportunity. Making mistakes and growing from them is likely how you found yourself in a leadership role to begin with.

The catch here is to understand these are your mistakes and failures, but you are willing to learn from them, so you don’t repeat them in the future.

Once you own it correct it quickly

Great leaders recognize that the faster you own the mistake, the quicker you can implement a proper solution to the problem. If you are spending your time figuring out how to avoid owning the failure, the longer it will take to find the solution to turn it around. Once you own it, you give up your ego, own the failure, find the key learning’s and move forward towards your next success.

A critical area that leaders can gain more credibility is in understanding how they respond when things go wrong on their watch.

“True leadership demands the character to demonstrate personal responsibility for one’s actions, and the courage to hold others accountable for theirs.

Excuses attempt to conceal personal or professional insecurities, laziness, and/or lack of ability.”  Mike Myatt

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