Chris Christie’s Leadership Opportunity

There are so many disgusting sides to the whole “Bridgegate” saga that they are too numerous to mention. This much seems clear: it actually happened. A member, or members of New Jersey Governor’s Chris Christie’s administration shut down access lanes to one of the busiest bridges in the world. They are alleged to have done this purely for vengeance against a mayor who declined to endorse the Governor in the most recent election. They messed around with thousands of people’s lives, potentially endangering some of them, all for political “payback.” 

Who and how many may have had a hand in this reprehensible political garbage is yet to be fully determined.  But we know who is responsible. 

If Governor Christie wants to be a leader, an authentic leader, he will quit with the Sargent Schultz “I knew nothing” statements and step up and admit his ultimate responsibility. That’s how it works, it’s the only way it works, for authentic leaders.

Let me give you an example from the business world. You’re a leader who leads someone that isn’t performing up to expectations. There are only two possibilities that can lead to that type of situation. Either you as the leader have placed that person in the wrong position or you as the leader are not giving them the tools they need to succeed. Either way, you as the leader are responsible for their performance. 

Poor leaders will make all kinds of excuses. They will blame the person they put in the position. They say things like the person isn’t smart enough, the person is a slow learner, the person doesn’t “reflect the views or values” of this organization. But it was the leader who put them in that position. The leader put them in a position where they were destined to fail. 

You may not like it but that is reality. Leadership, authentic leadership, comes with enormous responsibility. If you’re going to call yourself a leader then you better accept the responsibility that comes with it. That includes responsibility for the people you hire and promote. 

Saying you didn’t know what your people are doing is nothing less than saying “I’m a poor leader.” Authentic leaders know that delegating responsibility for a task does not relieve them of the responsibility for how it gets done. 

If Governor Christie want’s to demonstrate leadership in this matter he will admit his responsibility. If I were advising the Governor, (not like that’s ever going to happen) here is what I’d suggest he say: “There has been a failure within MY administration and I am responsible for it. I can’t say exactly how it happened and entirely who and how many are involved… YET. But I will get to the bottom of this and I will FULLY share with EVERYONE any and EVERYTHING that is uncovered. When we get to the root cause of this which is surely about more than a couple of rouge employees. Then we will let the chips fall where they may.”

Authentic leaders do not throw their people under the bus, they hold them accountable but they hold themselves even more accountable. Governor Christie has a real opportunity to lead here. The United States is about to learn if the Governor of New Jersey is a true leader or just a savvy politician good at making excuses like so many others.