The best leaders—in fact, the only ones who survive and thrive over the long haul—are the ones who learn to readily own and accept responsibility for their mistakes, learn from them, totally eliminate the blame game, accept criticism constructively, and then identify and pursue resources needed to improve their own performance. But that’s a mouthful. How does a leader get there?Responsibility and irresponsibility are not difficult concepts to grasp. Responsibility is the act of being accountable for certain tasks and outcomes. Irresponsibility is when I don't take responsibility for the things I am responsible for. Irresponsibility is a little bit like greed, arrogance, and other subtle, personal sins, and is almost impossible to see in the mirror. It is easy to spot in other people, but we find it hard to recognize in ourselves.There are evidences that our society is becoming less and less responsible. There seems to be an underlying feeling in many citizens: “I have the right to do whatever I want to do and say whatever I want to say and act any way I want to act. You don't have the right to hold me responsible. You, however, are responsible to clean up the mess and foot the bill that I have created through my irresponsibility.” But all of us were created to carry and manage responsibility. Responsibility or irresponsibility affects everyone. Our irresponsibility eventually becomes someone else's responsibility; as the ancient words say, “No one lives to himself or dies to himself.” Irresponsibility always impacts the people with whom you are connected.Responsibility is not a verb in the sense of an action word; it is something you are to be. Winston Churchill said, “The price of greatness is responsibility.” No leader is expected to be flawless but to be a growing person. A responsible leader develops and grows. Being a leader is a process and a mindset. It's not something that is given; a leader has to step into the role and claim it. Everyone can be a leader. A person doesn’t have to wait for the title.A great leader who earns widespread respect takes 100% responsibility. What does that mean? The Synovus Bank in Georgia tells its employees it is 100% responsibility, 0% excuses. No finger-pointing, no blaming, much willing accountability. Stepping up and taking responsibility has to be the standard for a leader. If you desire to be great, ask yourself, “When I take on a task, what standard do I apply to myself?” One-hundred percent responsibility is applying an outstanding standard, not an average or mediocre standard, to yourself. A great leader owns his/her responsibility to achieve outstanding results, never making excuses.The great leader drives 100% responsibility by not only exhibiting it, but by nurturing the mindset of 100% responsibility, 0% excuses. The team then begins to embrace the value that each person is totally responsible for his/her life. For many aspiring leaders, everything is someone else’s fault; every issue can be explained away with reasons why they don’t have responsibility or blame for their own failures. Excuses for failure, excuses about life choices, excuses about what has been accomplished—and what has not—fuel dysfunctional thinking, and dysfunctional thinking always leads to actions and behaviors that dismantle leadership.All of us have negative voices in our heads. These voices run endless episodes of failure possibilities and results that keep us from taking the risk and stepping out. Leaders empower themselves by taking responsibility to silence those unhelpful voices. True leaders take responsibility to interrupt their train of negative thought and they evict the excuses. They spend time instead making positive thinking a habit.Leaders, we really MUST take responsibility. People who decide that they are at the helm of their lives and refuse to blame or make excuses see an immediate upturn in joy. They feel empowered because they know they have a great deal of control over their circumstances. They are more likely to make informed and intelligent choices because they understand they are accountable and powerful. When things do go sideways, as they always will eventually for everyone, they don’t make excuses, they make another choice—how they will respond. They learn and grow.Indeed, the most important aspect of taking responsibility for your own life is to tell yourself and believe it: “My life is my responsibility. No one can step into my shoes and live my life for me. My choices are mine, and I am where I am because of the choices I make.” This attitude changes everything. I own that NO ONE is holding me back from my dreams but me. No one is keeping me from my goals but me.Simply speaking, here is how leaders own and accept responsibility, transforming themselves into people worth following. You can do it:
Listen to yourself when you speak. Do you hear yourself blaming others when things don’t go as you wish? Do you make accusations of your co-workers, your parents, your spouse, your background for things that don’t go exactly as you want? If you hear the blame game, you can make the choice to stop.
Ask someone you respect for feedback on your accountability and responsibility. Then take the feedback seriously. Determine to shut down your defenses and listen humbly. You will grow and learn.
Live and act like what you do really matters. It does. Your choices create the life you live. You choose accountability and responsibility, or you choose excuses and disrespect.
Live like your thoughts matter. Earl Nightingale said, “We become what we think about the most.” Negative thoughts, excuses, blaming can ruin relationships and progress. Choose powerful, positive thoughts. Redirect your thoughts when you find yourself heading in an unaccountable direction.
Get organized and stop procrastinating. When you are consistently being your best self, accountability becomes a lifestyle and fewer opportunities exist for blaming and excuses.
Accept responsibility for your relationships. Forgetfulness in your relationships will cost respect and leadership.
Avoid drama. Problems always arise, and then blame sprouts.
Find a responsible person or two who command respect. Then emulate them until it becomes your own nature.
You can be one of the leaders who commands respect and has longevity. Own your life. Take responsibility.