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Taking Responsibility

Originally published August 17, 2016

This is the fifth part of a multi-part Blog on Executive Leadership

In the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have is the ability to take on responsibility.    — Michael Korda, Editor-in-Chief, Simon & Schuster

In many ways, the President, CEO, Director, or senior leader by another name who sits at the pinnacle of an organization’s lines of authority is a beacon that symbolizes the mission and vision of the organization. Because of this view, it is important for each top executive to exhibit the kinds of actions and behaviors that they expect of other leaders, managers, and employees. In other words, a senior leader—especially the top executive—must lead by example. The old notion of “do as I say, not as I do” engenders neither effective leadership nor an effective and productive organization. For today’s executives—and into the future—leading by example is essential to success. 

In an organization, whether for-profit or non-profit, the figurehead of authority represents and is responsible for the entire company. In fact, the actions of the organization’s senior leader may have equal responsibility for either the success or demise of the organization. Just what effect does the top executive have on the organization? He or she directly impacts through their actions and, as well, perceptions the following key attributes to the organization:

  • Financial performance

  • Quality—including resources, products, or services

  • Essential partnerships—with suppliers, sponsors, and clients

  • Employee welfare and job security

  • Social and ethical responsibilities and actions

These principles are extremely important to an organization. However, it does not stop with the top executive alone… One of the ways by which a top executive may help promote organizational success by selecting the right senior executives to lead the component areas of the organization’s mission and have the ability to operate at the strategic level to support attainment of the organization’s vision.

And it does not stop there! Senior leaders need to be surrounded by colleagues of high quality and integrity that can assume their share of the responsibilities, including managers and employees. After all, one of the goals of effective leadership is to train and mentor others to develop new leaders—certainly the organization has managers with the potential to become leaders, as well as employees who have the requisite skills, persona, and drive to become managers. Professionals, managers, your customer-facing employees who are responsible for providing the best possible service to clients or any other individual within an organization is expected to be both responsible in their action and accountable for those actions within their scope of the role and responsibility.

Accountability is linked to the leader and to the duty to assume their responsibility—which means being answerable for both positive and negative consequences and outcomes. The leader does not delegate their responsibility to others, nor can the leader place blame on the past. Most importantly, the leader cannot attribute change or failure to ignorance, misinformation, or any other excuse.

Accountability will be discussed further in a later post of this Blog.

When working with subordinates, praise in public, counsel in private.


Next week will be part six of the Blog series: Leading with Focus


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