Do You Accept Responsibility?


The Passengers Never Crash The Plane!


Today's LEADERSHIP SUCCESS STRATEGY.
A Dose of Reality About Excellence For
People In Charge, And Those Who Aspire To Be.

(Feel free to forward this to co-workers, friends and family.)  Issue 0102

From Rick Houcek

 I heard that statement in a presentation in 1988, uttered by a good friend and colleague of mine, the late Maurice Mascarenhas, a brilliant businessman. 
 My heart stopped.  A chill went up my spine.
 At the time, I was president of an advertising agency.  I had 35 employees who showed up for work every day, and I always hoped they came prepared to perform at their highest level of excellence.

 But...

 Maurice's riveting statement froze me dead in my tracks and shifted my attention to a different question:  "Am I showing up every day prepared to do my best, to bring my A-game?"

 Maurice's logic was inarguable.

 Passengers don't crash the plane.  Pilots typically do.  Even in the real world of aviation, in 2004 in the U.S., pilot error was listed as the primary cause of 78% of fatal general aviation accidents and 75% of accidents overall.  (Source: Wikipedia)
 So it is in business too

 Entrepreneurs, chairmen, CEOs, presidents, general managers, and business unit heads -- all need to take a hard look in the mirror when things go awry.  Oh sure, bad decisions and non-performance by senior and junior staff can contribute to a downfall too.  So can uncontrollable outside forces. 

 But the key word is "contribute"

 The leader is still at the controls.  Still running the ship.  Still has the highest top-down view of everything.
 When a pro or college sports team has a dismal season or two, people ask "Why did they fire the manager?  The players lost the games."

 Same in the military:  When failures occur, it's the leaders who are disciplined, relieved of command, or discharged.
 It's no different in business, or any other type of organization.  The leader bears the brunt of all negativity. 

 You can fight this, argue it, or claim it just isn't fair -- and you might even be right -- but it won't change a thing.
 As a result, leadership isn't for everyone.  Certainly not the feint of heart

 Accountability can be scary for the leader, but the lack of it is scarier for the followers.  From the beginning of time, leaders have been held accountable for what goes on beneath them -- and it will happen to you too.
 There are a few exceptions, but they are small in number.

 Occasionally, a leader is held accountable for reasons stupid, wrong, or political, that have no connection to performance, behavior, or reality.

 I'm not talking about those here. 

 And yes, I have empathy for leaders who are fine and decent individuals who got blind-sided by wrongdoing beneath them.  It happens.

 But still, this is the hammering point:  High-integrity leaders must realize the buck stops with them.  No excuses.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  No argument.  Period.
 None of this relieves those below the leader -- the soldiers, athletes or employees -- of their poor performance and individual screw-ups.  Fact is, every VP, manager, and supervisor has a "mini business" -- or a company-within-the-company -- under his or her command, is the leader of it, and can be guilty of crashing it.
 And let's talk about blaming, whining, and moaning.

 Does anyone respect a leader guilty of these grade school tactics? 

 Examples abound, like pro sports managers who complain: "But the owner won't spend anything to get great players" ... or ... "We had the game won if it weren't for the lousy officiating."

 Enron CEO Ken Lay threw his hands up and said he was clueless any wrongdoing was going on, and President Jeffrey Skilling said he resigned before any of it happened.  Right.  Classic cases of "Who, me?"

 And after Hurricane Katrina, there was finger-pointing by more leaders -- local, state, and federal -- than I have space to name.  A horrible tragedy made worse by leaders engaged in turf protection.

 By contrast, Abraham Lincoln routinely accepted blame when things went wrong.  It was his nature to be responsible. 

 After difficult losses, Alabama football coach Bear Bryant was frequently heard to say, "I coached horribly today."

Back when Pat Riley was coaching the Los Angeles Lakers, he said you can't blame losing on having injured players, adding "The team on the court is the team of the moment." 

 When you hear a leader stand up early and say "I accept full responsibility for these actions," that's someone who gets it. 

 Lesson & Actions For You:

 Bottom line: employees in a company, athletes on a team, voters in a political jurisdiction, soldiers in battle, and passengers on a plane ... all expect and deserve leaders who will accept responsibility for mishaps, large and small.

 Everyone loves to take credit for success.  But it seems to be the rare individual who will face the music and accept responsibility for failure.

 Are you in that elite group?
 If you say no, maybe you should re-evaluate if leadership is for you.  If yes, then you are in the company of the highest integrity leaders.  Be proud -- but keep your flak jacket nearby.  It will still get ugly at times.
 
 A friend and exceptional management consultant Pat Murray, says, "When making a tough decision, ask yourself:  'When this problem is all over with and solved, what stories do I want told about me?'"

 When you determine that -- in advance of taking action -- you've got your answer as to how you should behave in the moment.

 Oh, and here's another good "smell test" on responsibility.  When weighing your options, ask yourself: "If I do X, would I be proud or embarrassed to describe those actions to the person I admire most?" 

 Always take the high road.
Helping Ambitious Forward-Thinkers Soar To Success,

Rick Houcek, President
Soar With Eagles, Inc.




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