When they fail, great leaders always hold onto and believe in their abilities. They acknowledge, learn from mistakes, and encourage their teams to look at mistakes not as the end point, but the starting mark of new growth.

In the era of unprecedented management complexity, getting the best out of people under normal circumstances can be a challenge. Throw in adversity, and things suddenly change! Even achieving the minimum from systems you are used to become a mirage.

In the current high-litigation culture, leaders always get someone to blame when things do not add up. It is easy to place blame on suppliers, partners, managers, or underlings who appear unable to get things done.

While delegating responsibility might be a known and acceptable concept, in times of crisis, a true leader should step in and take matters into their own hand.

The authority-leadership paradox

Every other day, we come across managers lamenting that they do not have authority. However, authority can only be achieved when a leader is able to demonstrate responsibility. Here, you need to appreciate that authority is not simply given by senior executives. Rather, you can only earn it via responsible behaviour.

Peter Drucker, the modern day Aristotle for the business community, argues that management lacks power, but only wields responsibility. He was right in pointing that leaders must demonstrate responsible behaviour for their subordinates and themselves.

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Though our actions determine whether we will earn trust from subordinates or not, the final decision relies on the ability to build trust with our leadership. How can this be achieved? Instead of deflecting issues, take responsibility. Own the problem and address it!

Leaders evaluate themselves before pointing fingers at others

In the realms of corporate competitiveness, the simpler route is covering one’s inadequacies. However, this only buys time and does not go far. A responsible leader has to take a deeper look at every misstep and seek to learn from mistakes as opposed to pointing fingers.

The leader pulls the thumb and asks the hard question: “What should have been done in a different way?” As others see the problem, it is the work of the leader to identify solutions.

The leader privately addresses the issue at hand but takes full responsibility in public. If the problem arose because one of the team members slipped, the leader’s role is to pick them up.

Taking responsibility today maps your race for a better tomorrow

If you obfuscate your involvement by passing blame, it acts like covering a volcano. The team members that you pass the button to will not forget! Next time when an issue arises, the team members will simply follow your lead but cover their back. But why would they do this?

By passing the blame to them, they feel victimised. It does not matter whether they are the ones who messed up things or not. You simply have to own up the work/mistakes of the group.  Because they are afraid that you might hang them when a problem happens, they could even set you up by hiding things from you.

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You have a team to lead; take it as a family and use every avenue to correct, mentor and emerge a better unit.

People in your team are smart, but they depend on you

Although it is true that you are the leader, the people in your team are savvy. That is right. They are always observing and taking notes. At any moment, they can easily spot half-truths or attempts to shift blame. So, what does passing blame mean?

To your team members, passing the blame button is like getting thrown down a cliff. They feel insecure and like a drowning person, will hold onto anything to survive. At this point, you must choose to lead them.

It is time to tell your team members that; “Yes, the situation is dire, it is messy but you are going to solve it.” At this point, everyone works harder to help address the situation. With every effort onboard, your responsibility will help you emerge a better leader.

It does not matter whose fault it was!

Well, it is true that for your organisation to get into the current problem, someone must have messed up. But that is it!  You cannot go to the public and say that the company has sunk because a “James” or “Lillian” failed to do a specific task. The shareholders, clients, and every interested person want to hear about the great recovery plan, the progress, and how you plan to make the organisation great again.

Move on! There is a lot of things to do

Now that the mess has happened, it is not the time to wallow in self-pity. Indeed, you need to double or triple your efforts to achieve two things: One, get through the problem and two, set the organisation back on the right track. In light of this, what would a responsible leader do to achieve these two core components?

  • Stop reminding yourself and every member of the team about the problem.
  • Involve all the team members to craft a winning strategy.
  • Bring in more experts to help with addressing the problem.

When you find your organisation, department, or team in a problem, the way you handle it will be a pointer of how responsible you are.

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You know what? That crisis is not there to wreck you! It is time to build a stronger team, strengthen your systems, train your team members and become stronger.

Others before you have gone through fire blazing crises and came out unscathed. David Neeleman of JetBlue took responsibility of the 2007 crisis when the ice storm struck East Coast. For Neeleman, it was not a matter of blaming the storm or his team. He took responsibility, compensated clients for delays and cleared the mess estimated at US$30 million. The results? JetBlue emerged stronger than before!

You too, can succeed now, and any other time, as far as you do not delegate responsibility!

Image Credit: Jonny Caspari on Unsplash