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Are You Responsible?

I saw an advertisement for a law firm on television the other day. The ad said that if you had lost money in the stock market or other investments that you “shouldn’t blame yourself,” you should sue your investment advisor. It said “you’re not responsible.” 

That pretty much sums up where many of today’s problems come from. No one blames themselves for anything. Nothing is anyone’s fault. Responsibility, for way too many people, is a thing of the past. 

When kids mess up it’s not their fault, it is the parents. When parents mess up it’s the “systems” responsibility. When the system is screwed up it’s the politicians inability to get anything done that’s the problem. When the politicians don’t get anything done one party blames the other….and on and on it goes. 

Where there is no responsibility there is no success. Responsibility removes productivity blocking excuses. Responsibility leads to learning and the elimination of mistakes. Responsibility is a direct road to success. 

Fewer and fewer people are willing to stand up and accept responsibility for anything that goes wrong. If you’re not a fan of long lines then step right into the line of responsibility because there will be almost no one in line with you. Meanwhile the no responsibility line goes on forever these days.

Sometimes, rarely, not accepting responsibility can be a sign of humility, especially when it is responsibility for something that went right. It was interesting watching the New England Patriots celebrate their amazing comeback victory in this year’s Super Bowl. It appeared most of the team, even their biggest stars, were playing a game of “hot potato” with the credit for their success. Every player interviewed claimed someone else was more responsible for the comeback than them. 

But here’s where their true success comes from. If they had lost I’d bet you nearly every player on that team would have accepted responsibility themselves. Authentic Leaders and successful people accept more than their share of  the responsibility for a failure and giveaway virtually all the credit for any success. 

If you truly want to be a leader then admit your mistakes, accept responsibility for your actions, and never never blame someone else for something you did wrong.

Accepting responsibility for your decision making, choices, actions and their outcome indeed adds pressure to your life but that’s not a bad thing. A bit of pressure helps you excel. Accept the pressure of responsibility and the odds are you will be more successful as a result. 

 
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Responsible Leadership

Authentic Servant Leaders understand that leading people is a privilege that must be earned. They also understand that being a leader doesn’t, or shouldn’t, come with privileges that are not available to the people they lead.

I attended a military high school and I was quickly taught that “rank has its privileges.” As I advanced through the ranks I would occasionally take advantage of my rank by doing something that a kid with a lower rank couldn’t do. If they called me on it I’d reply in the way I had been taught: by saying, usually in a dismissive tone, “RHIP.” 

RHIP stood for Rank has it’s Privileges.

I believed that for a long time. I eventually learned how truly wrong that philosophy was, I discovered that every time I pulled that RHIP stuff I separated myself from the people I was supposed to be leading. The fact is that what rank really has is it’s responsibilities. A person with rank or as it is called in the civilian world, a person in a leadership position, has certain responsibilities to the people they lead.

Chief among those responsibilities is not separating themselves from the people they would lead. Few people in leadership positions intentionally build a wall between themselves and their people but intentional or not, many times walls do exist.

The walls are built by leaders when they apply a different set of rules to themselves than they apply to their people. As a leader the same rules must apply to everyone, including you. I know it is easy to feel that you “have earned the right” to have a little more flexibility but the truth is what you have earned the right to do is model successful behavior and habits for your people. 

Being an example of success in a daily responsibility for Authentic Servant Leaders.

Sometimes leaders provide themselves with “perks” which are not available to their people. I don’t so much have a problem with “perks” as I have with how they are “shown” to the people that don’t have access to them. The reality is that in all likelihood people in leadership positions have earned those positions by in some way outperforming the people they lead. They often worked harder and longer and they most certainly should be rewarded for it. “Perks” are a type of reward for their efforts. 

Where I personally have a problem with perks is when a person in a leadership position uses them to separate themselves from their people. They separate themselves by throwing their perks in the faces of the people who haven’t yet earned them. They brag, they show off, and in some cases they even taunt the people they rely on for their continued success. That is simply lazy and irresponsible leadership. 

If you believe that it is “lonely at the top” then you very well may have built some walls between you and your people. If you’ve hired good people then you’re missing out on a whole lot of meaningful interactions that could make your role as a leader much easier, and your organization much more successful. 

So tear down those walls. 

Here’s one idea how you might do that. Each day, every day, not when you find the time, not on “slow days,” not when you’re bored, but every single day get out of your office and conduct a brief “innerview” with at least one of your people. This isn’t an interview like you had when you hired them. This is an opportunity to get an “inner” view of them as people, as valued, informed team members. Ask them how they are doing, ask about their goals and objectives, ask how you can help them achieve their goals. Ask about how the business is doing, ask how the business is doing for them. Ask for an idea how the business could do better.

One of the biggest expenses a business can have these days is employees who are not engaged, who are giving less than a full effort. If you want engaged employees then build the kind of relationships with them that will keep them engaged.

Get to know your people, you have likely described them at least once as your organization’s greatest asset, don’t just say that, show it. Make an “innerview” a priority everyday and everyday your people will know just how important you really think they are. 

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The Awesome Responsibility of Leading

Lots of people occupy leadership positions without really leading. Many people identify themselves as leaders even though they actually lead no one. 

To those people leadership is apparently just a word. 

To a truly Authentic Servant Leader however “Leadership” is much more than just a word; it is an awesome responsibility. 

Leadership, true leadership, comes with the responsibility to help your people grow and succeed. Every time you move up within an organization the weight of your responsibility increases. If you’re not prepared for that or you are unwilling to accept additional responsibility then don’t accept the move either.

It’s not unusual as you move up the ladder that your responsibility will grow faster than your authority. That’s a challenge for lesser leaders but Authentic Servant Leaders use their influence in place of authority to get things done. Authority is important if your trying to rely on compliance to motivate your people, when you have the commitment of your people influence is more than sufficient.

The responsibility of leading means making certain sacrifices. Leaders have obligations to many constituencies and that limits their freedom. It is however a limitation they freely choose in order to have an impact on the lives of those they lead. 

Here’s the thing, saying you’re a leader is easy. Leading, really leading, is anything but easy. Leading isn’t for everyone and that’s perfectly fine but if you occupy a leadership position or have the audacity to label yourself a leader then you must accept the responsibility that goes with it.

If you don’t then you’re denying your people the leadership they need and deserve.