Lead, Follow or Get out of the Way


I’ve lately been spending a lot of time thinking about the accountability we have for our own situations. Part of it is coming from my observations about how the country is reacting to our current recession. I guess I’ve just encounted a number of people lately who aren’t actively participating in their own futures. They are content to feel powerless and out of control. It drives me insane.

I think even two of us are guilty sometimes for villainizing the “leaders” within business and the greater community as being the root of all evil when there were a lot of people around those leaders who contributed as much to the situation as the leader him or her self. Take the AIG bonus situation as an example. If you had been one of the eleven or so folks who were offered a multi-million dollar bonus this year, would you have turned it down? We hope that we would have done the right thing, but it doesn’t appear that any of the eleven or so at AIG did . But, it’s not them who have to get skewered in front of congress, it’s the CEO. Where were these eleven leaders when it was time to help their leader avoid a collossally bad error in judgement? It would seem that they were looking out for number one. I’m sure that they rationalized it away somehow, but they are as much to blame as that CEO for taking money they knew wasn’t rightly theirs.

It has become popular to blame our manager or leader for our situation when we aren’t taking any action to improve the situation for ourselves. We have to accept that we are 100% responsible for our own lot in life. If you find yourself in a situation with a poor leader, you can chose to help them lead, you can leave, or you can become part of the problem by doing nothing and whining about it. I, for one, have heard too much whining. It’s time for people to control their own destiny by taking actions to improve their circumstances.

This might be a crazy thought, but I think that if we all took more responsibility for our own actions and consequences, we wouldn’t have the “leadership crisis” we see around us. It might just be that effectively leading people who spend more time whining than being accountable for thier own actions is really hard, even if you have decent leadership skills.

So, maybe it’s time to evolve our role as leaders to teaching individuals to be personally accountable for their own results and outcomes, to teach them that there are real consequences (both positive and negative) for each of their actions. They need to see that it’s not the leader’s responsibility to advance their career or to make decisions for them, it’s up to them. This can be a painful process, but I think it’s the place to start.

I look forward to your thoughts.


1 comment

  1. Good thoughts, although a couple of comments spring to mind. The first is that I do not believe that we are 100% responsible for our own lot in life. Lets take Gladwell’s “Outliers” for example, in which he posits that there is a degree, basically, of sheer circumstantial luck that surrounds success. Add to luck the fact that the playing field is not level for all members of society. What I think this means is that we have to attempt, with good faith, to be BOTH 100% responsible for ourselves and 100% responsible for our “neighbor,” which to me is anyone within cultural proximity (the definition of this is too big a discussion for this comment!)

    I also wonder about the cultural rise of this failure of individuals to take responsibility. Did it start with the increasing narcissism of the second wave of Boomers? The spoiled, can do anything we want, era of prosperity generation? If so, there are signs that the Millenials are bucking that trend. Consider the popularity of Obama’s Peace/Citizen Corps concept.

    Anyway, just a couple of thougths.

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