Leadership Essential #1: Take Responsibility


Good Thursday morning! It seems about 1/3 of the people I know right now are on vacation (many in Europe). I hope you are in a similar place or have plans to be soon! I started the week in Pittsburgh, and am ending it in New Jersey, with a trip to Sarasota in between – all work and fun at the same time.
Many leadership problems are people problems. Naturally.
From my CEO’s, I hear:

  • “My CFO is just a bean-counter and not strategic enough.”
  • “My COO is a bully and alienates his direct reports. We are at risk of losing some valuable people.”
  • “My executive assistant is doing a poor job of managing my calendar.”

(Notice all of these statements begin with “My.”)
Many times, they are stated as problems the leader wishes would somehow go away or solve themselves. But I remind the leader, this is your responsibility to try and solve.
More specifically…

  • The leader hires. It’s your responsibility if you hire the wrong person for the job.
  • The leader sets expectations. It’s your responsibility that your direct report understands his/her role.
  • The leader delegates. It’s your responsibility to define your direct’s scope of activities.
  • The leader holds accountable. It’s your responsibility to ensure your people are meeting your expectations, and it’s your responsibility to take action if they are not.
  • The leader fires. It’s your responsibility to take action when a person proves themselves incapable of performing the job for which they were hired.

Leaders can get wimpy on one or more of these steps. Courageous leaders take responsibility — step up, speak up, get them done.
As I said last week, the U.S. military is one of the best leader training schools anywhere. Two books come to mind written by military leaders who speak directly to this essential of “leaders take responsibility.”

Speaking of courageous leaders – this past week, a CEO and 15 of her senior leaders invited my colleagues, Brad Sytsma and Marta McKinnon (yes, my best friend and wife), in for a conversation on growing trust and vulnerability. This wasn’t just a “feel good” conversation. It was a necessary conversation for this organization as it tackles ambitious growth goals.

Marta rocking a conversation on trust and vulnerability.

The best part of the conversation? Marta and Brad talked about 10 minutes. The leaders talked the other 50! Let me know if you’d like to hear more about how we are helping leaders have these courageous conversations that grow their trust and teamwork.
Please pass this on to one of your leader friends and encourage them to sign up.
Lead well.