Thursday, June 24, 2010

Being Responsible

Being in charge means being responsible.

While politicians routinely blame their predecessor for all sorts of things, the fact is that, at best such behavior is childish. While it is true that no matter how hard you try you can’t change everything immediately, the minute you take over, take ‘command,’ you are responsible. The bigger the organization you are in, the longer it will take for you to ‘turn it around.’ But no matter how large, you are the one who is responsible. Even in the case of a President taking over a country in a recession, once he is President he is immediately responsible for changing the trend lines. He cannot end the recession, but he can change how long we are in the recession and what the economy looks like when we recover.

More to the point, a leader is supposed to be concerned about the future, not the past. Looking for someone to blame after you take charge is childish enough and wastes energy; it’s unproductive. Looking for someone to blame after you have been in charge for more than 6 months is poor leadership.

Furthermore, despite the degree of difficulty facing you, no matter how bad the situation, you are immediately responsible for the leadership beneath you. If the head of this or that department that works for you is not competent, or is simply not doing their jobs, you need to have a process in place within days that will identify that fact, and then you are responsible for correcting it. If inspections and monitoring are not adequate, or you feel they are not adequate (the same thing, actually), then you need to act immediately to change them. You are NOW in charge. You need to make certain that you communicate your rules, your performance standards, down into the organization. You should be prepared to do that on the day you take charge. From that point on, the decision-making at every echelon in your organization is shaped by your policies and guidance.

Claiming that your predecessor is to blame months after taking office is nothing more than a dodge and a sign of poor leadership. Claiming that a poor decision made by one of your subordinates is the fault of your predecessor is an indication of no leadership whatsoever.

Despite the pleas of the preachers of ‘feel good’ leadership and the power of happy thoughts, the fact remains that Accepting Responsibility actually equates to Accepting Blame. It is rightly said that victory has a hundred fathers, but defeat is an orphan. Leading means being responsible. If responsibility was painless and without any negative ‘cost,’ leadership would be simple. But responsibility only is a burden because it means that you will have to accept the role of the leader when things don’t go right.

No matter what happens, when you have a marked success, there will be all sorts of people who will claim the accolades. When there is failure, they will all seek to deflect the fingers pointed at them. Good leaders don’t ‘deflect,’ they accept the blame and then move on to fix the problem, the process and the organization.


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