Part of the Blog Series: Leadership Principles for Young Professionals.
In today’s business world accountability and responsibility are, at best, punchlines. Just look at the examples that have been set. CEOs and executives receive unreasonable pay checks on their way out the door after having cratered the success of the company they led. This is COUNTER-INTUITIVE to all the rules and lessons we are taught growing up. We can learn a lot from seeing things done wrong, and that is what I hope to share with you in this post.
Today’s current corporate environment sets an example that as long as you climb in to the “C” suite levels of corporations, you are protected from the burden of responsibility. From government bail-outs to the golden parachutes, millennials and young professionals are taught that responsibility is a good punchline, but something to be deflected to the next layer down when it’s time to own a negative outcome. It is far too rare today to see or hear of a leader in an organization own the responsibility for failing to accomplish an objective or task. They gladly take the credit when success has been achieved, but lack courage to own a shortfall or failure.
So, how can you break this trend and develop a sense of responsibility among your people?
There are two leadership principles that I mentioned in previous posts that are critical here. First is “Set the Example”: As mentioned above, if the example that you are setting is that you seek reward for running your organization into the ground, you are creating a precedent for future generations to think that it is OK to avoid responsibility. The second, which goes hand-in-hand with setting the example is “Seek Responsibility and Take Responsibility For Your Own Actions”: You are setting a good example if you are constantly seeking more and more responsibility, and at the same time, owning responsibility for your decisions and actions (including owning the decisions and actions of those you lead). You must have the courage to go first in order to have your people willing to follow you.
Hold your people to higher standards when it comes to responsibility.
Holding your people responsible for their actions can be uncomfortable, especially when it’s regarding a failure or shortfall in what they were asked to do. If you lack the courage to have tough conversations, you will fail at this principle. I am not talking about giving people a butt-chewing. I’m talking about coaching sessions, mentoring sessions, and counseling sessions that are tactful, yet truthful. You are not serving your people in order to raise them up when you lack the courage to challenge their comfort zones, and likewise, challenging your own comfort zones. It is never fun to have tough conversations regarding owning responsibility, but when you have established consistency and a high standard, I promise, your people will live up to them. And those who don’t live up to them will weed themselves out.
In order for you to act on this leadership principle, you must have your own house in order. If you have not established a track record of taking responsibility for your own actions, it will be difficult to instill a sense of responsibility in your people. Once you have you house in order, you must have the courage to raise the bar regarding your people and develop that sense of responsibility in them.
Just imagine being part of a team that operates this way. Imagine having leadership who showed you that this was the way to act. What would it be like to work in an organization that practices this principle?
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