Part of the Series: "Leadership Principles For Young Professionals & Millennials
One of the best times to take on responsibility is this very moment, because if you wait for the perfect time, that time will never come. All your schooling, all your training, all your investment in personal growth, and all your experience up to this point is plenty for you to raise your hand and volunteer for more responsibilities. There is no better way to grab the attention of you leadership than to be willing to take on responsibility that the majority of your peers shy away from. Become willing to ask for more responsibility. Take the initiative and take it on without permission when the opportunity presents itself. You may be taking on something entirely new, and that is outside everything that makes you comfortable. Be the one who steps forward, not the one who steps back. This principle is one that sets leaders apart.
When you take on more responsibility, you will expose yourself to increased risks of setbacks. One trend that I have sought to disrupt in the business world is the dodging of responsibility. More often than not, leaders today are quick to allow failures to fall to the lowest levels to their people rather than accept the responsibilities of those failures, and find solutions to them. It’s so commonplace that no one calls anyone out on it. And when someone does, it’s an eye opener.
Nearly two years ago, I was leading a project estimation solution that was under a tight deadline that was not to be moved. The subject matter experts had submitted their estimates for each of their department’s levels of effort for their roles in the project. In an effort to meet the tight deadline, I made the decision to cut a step of reviewing and confirming the accuracy of the estimates, which cut days off the timeline. The result was that the estimates were not conducted correctly on the part of the subject matter experts, and the client wanted names of those who filled out the estimates wrong. I did not give them any names. Instead, I told them my role was the responsible role for the estimates, and that I had made the decision to skip the verification step in order to meet the deadline. I told the client we will get the corrections made and get the estimation in. The client actually had no response. I never heard another word. They were looking for someone to come down on. It was demonstrated in their culture time and again prior to that with others. They were not used to people taking responsibility for their own actions.
What is just as important is the level of trust your people have with you and a desire to never want to let you down when you are willing to accept responsibility. Think of it this way: Imagine making a big mistake at work, but instead of you getting burned by your manager, boss, or leader, when they are asked by their leadership, they shoulder the responsibility for the mistake. If you are a moral human being, you are going to feel more urgency to make corrections. You will never want to have to put your leader in that situation again.
In the Marines, leaders taking responsibility for their actions is such a common cultural dynamic that it is a huge scar on a career for a Marine to even attempt to pass the responsibility of something going wrong down to their subordinate Marines. An officer who may try to place blame on his Marines, when questioned by superiors, would be met with a larger butt chewing for side-stepping responsibility far beyond the one he would have received for the mistake that was made originally. I witnessed fellow officers make this mistake. Even worse than the scorn from their commanding officer, they completely lost trust and credibility with their Marines.
If you desire to set yourself apart as a leader, the one place where you can make an immediate impact is in the level of responsibility you are willing to take on, and the responsibility you own in regards to your actions. This is an area of both growing pains, but yet accelerated growth for a young leader who is brave enough to take on this challenge.
Agoge Leadership Development
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