In our third installment, we continue exploring the principles of leadership developed by the Canadian Armed Forces and taught in the 1980s and 90s. You can find part 1 here, and part two here. Today we will talk about the third principle:
3 – Seek out and accept responsibility
In the above photo is President Harry S Truman in the oval office at the Whitehouse with his “The Buck Stops Here” sign. From: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2012/10/buck-stops-here-clinton-obama-truman.html
This one is somewhat nuanced with two possible ways that it can be applied.
When in a leadership position, you often have responsibility assigned to you. This is the “buck stops here” aspect – to truly be effective as a leader you have to own that responsibility. This is done by being accountable – accepting that when things go well, you have to give out credit to your team and when things don’t go well, taking responsibility for the failures. Taking the credit for success, and not recognizing your team, won’t win you any friends in the follower department. It is also important to consider that you can still correct a follower’s behaviour, while not assigning blame for a task failure – as a leader you are responsible to help your team get better at what they do (more on that in parts 7 and 9).
When you are not assigned a leadership position, this principle talks to seeking out tasks or functions that provide an opportunity to take responsibility, and lead. Even if there are no extra tasks or roles, as an aspiring leader you can take responsibility for what is under your control. For example – if you want to develop as a leader, but don’t have anyone to lead (think of serving as a staff officer in the military), you can show that you take responsibility for the tasks you are assigned. If you can’t complete a task, you take responsibility and own that failure. Don’t pass the blame onto someone else.
In summary – leaders lead – and part of that function is being responsible and accountable for decisions and actions of yourself, and your team.