The major attributes of Leadership (#10 of 11):
Willingness to assume full responsibility: Successfull leaders must be willing to assume responsibility for the mistakes and shortcomings of their followers. If they try to shift this responsibility, they will not remain leaders. If followers make mistakes and become incompetent, it is the leader who has failed. (From: “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill)
Truth be told … I started to blog about this attribute of leadership last weekend … but I could not finish due to demands on my time but, during the course of the last week, much has come into focus.
On the surface, this law of leadership seems a hard pill to swallow. How can one be truly responsible for the mistakes and shortcomings of one’s followers? They are, after all free agents with the right of choice and have factors and drivers in their lives which may divert their loyalty. Yet, I know in my heart that this principle is a truth that cannot be circumvented. A leader is responsible for the successes, and failures of the followers. In other words … the buck stops here.
How then, does one accept such responsibility in a world fraught with mediocrity, selfishness and carelessness?
A true leader shoulders the weight of the follower’ doubts, insecurities and shortcomings. He or she does so as an investment into the future of the team and the endeavor. By shouldering and carrying these shortcomings and simultaneously mentoring and empowering ones followers to rise to their highest potential, a leader sets the team up for future success and smooth sailing. A leader is NOT just concerned with today’s success, nor the short lived praise that comes from short lived success at the expense of the weak. A true leader is in it for the long-haul, and therefore will shoulder the failings of the team if doing so ensures long term success of the whole.
But what if there are those who refuse to respond and grow with the leader’s empowerment plan? Such people are a cancer that can rot the whole despite a leader’s best efforts. That is where the lessons of this week come into play.
A Leader, in order to empower his or her team and lead them to success, also has an ethical obligation to excise any cancer from the body of the team. Last month, we had to fire our architect and engage a replacement for our project in Park City, UT. The terminated architect refused to follow direction and play as part of a team. They superimposed their own vision onto the project which lead to our initial budget estimates from our contractor coming in over $4.5 million over budget. They committed the cardinal sin of architecture: “Design something that will never be built because the market won’t support the costs. A decision had to be made … for the sake of not just the Developer’s pocket-book, but for the hundreds families who would be put out of work because the project would be cancelled and the designers, builders, inspectors, materials vendors, etc. would not have the project to execute. Therefore, in behalf of the Owner and the families of our team, I fired the architect and hired a replacement. After 5-weeks of re-design and re-tooling, our budget estimate came back from our contractor yesterday on-target. The team is on-track and the endeavor is saved, assuring jobs for hundreds of families.
Yes … A leader must accept full responsibility for the actions, successes and failures of the followers, but a true leader also has the moral and ethical obligation to protect the whole from the transgressions of a part. Empowered by this ethical obligation, it is easy, even joyful, for a leader to carry this weight.