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Taking Responsibility

Developing Leadership Qualities: Taking Responsibility

President Harry Truman summed up leadership with his deck sign that said:  The Buck Stops Here.”

As the leader of the country, he knew he had to take ultimate responsibility for everything that happened.  As the leader of your business, you should follow suit.

Taking ResponsibilityAntithesis of leadership

Truman’s slogan is the opposite of bad leadership where a business owner “passes the buck” and tries to place blame for mistakes or problems on other people, events, or bad luck.

Blaming employees, for example, is not only counter to good leadership but is detrimental to the business. These employees won’t trust the leader, will resent being blamed (whether deserved or not), and may jump ship (a serious problem in today’s tight job market).

Actions for taking responsibility

It’s one thing to say you’re responsible; it’s another to take actions that improve the bad situation for which you’re taking responsibility.

  • Don’t be a martyr. Taking responsibility doesn’t mean advertising this to everyone to show what a great person you are. Such a display can make a situation worse. Quiet acceptance of responsibility is the way to go.
  • Find out who’s at fault. Without assigning blame, discovering the source of a problem is essential to helping you fix it. Maybe there’s been a miscommunication. Maybe an employee hasn’t been properly trained to handle a task. Discovery of the issue to be dealt with is key.
  • Look at mistakes as opportunities. Mistakes are a cost of doing business; it’s impossible to run a company without having mistakes occur a some time or other. It’s really a lemon/lemonade situation: What can be learned from the problem?
  • Give credit to employees for good work. While withholding blame, it advisable to lavish praise on employees when things go right. This includes acknowledge the person who has the direct responsibility for the success.

Final thought

Winston Churchill said: “The price of greatness is responsibility.”

Don’t you want your company to be great?

As a reminder, last month’s blog concerned patience. Next month’s blog, which is the final one on developing leadership qualities, will address optimism.