Responsibility

"Success on any major scale requires you to accept responsibility . . . . In the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have is the ability to take on responsibility."— Michael KordaEditor-in-Chief, Simon & Schuster

Leaders are not only responsible for achieving the results that their organizations and missions demand, they are responsible for everything their organizations do and the manner in which it is done.  Personally, totally, and absolutely responsible for all that the organization does and accomplishes.

This understanding of the complete and personal nature of the leader's duty to the organization, mission, and its employees is a crucial starting point from which almost all successful leader actions emanate.  Leaders need to internalize their role on this scale to succeed; it's deeply personal and they are responsible at every level.

My essential premise that the pre-eminent role and fundamental job of the leader is to solve organizational problems and prevent new ones demands that leaders personally accept, even embrace, those problems.  They will never be solved or prevented, unless leaders are willing to do this.  At the most basic level of human behavior, we solve our own problems, we don't solve the problems of others; it works the same way with organizations.  And it causes leaders to truly care when they feel personally responsible.  Leaders who really care about the organization, its people, and mission have taken the first steps toward success. It's an imperative connection from all leaders to the organization and its people.

Without this assumption of personal responsibility, problems don't get solved or prevented.  Without it leaders don't really care in the deep and serious way that good leadership demands.

I have worked with several organizations whose leaders don't grasp this basic concept and it manifests itself in a distance and detachment from almost every aspect of their behavior and performance as leaders. Their employees sense it immediately and adopt a similar outlook on their own roles; "stuff happens", "not my job", "someone else does that", and other attitudes that separate employees from the effects and results the organization must produce to succeed. The overall effect is one of deep and chronic organizational mediocrity, stagnation, low morale, and sub par performance.  As consumers and customers we deal with organizations like this every day.  Nobody is responsible....

In the context of this vital precept, it's also important to understand that leaders are responsible without being able to directly control every event and outcome.  This is one of the many dilemmas and contradictions of leadership and part of the richness and reward of leadership done well.

But leaders are still responsible.

"Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Keith Stalder, #34

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