Like many of you, I’ve been very frustrated with our government over the past several months. There are so many examples of poor leadership in both the legislative and executive branches – from the sequester to the shutdown to the inability to actually pass a budget. However, events over the past few weeks have pushed me to my limit. All politics aside, the claims of President Obama and other executive branch “leaders” that they weren’t aware of things that were going on (such as spying on the leaders of our allies) or didn’t know that something wasn’t working (the healthcare.gov site) is unacceptable.
As a leader, you are responsible for everything that happens, or doesn’t happen, on your watch. You may not be aware of the details of every action every employee is taking, but you are still responsible for the outcomes. You don’t have the luxury to choose what you take credit or blame for. It all belongs to you.
Of course, it is not reasonable for a leader to make every decision and take every action. However, it is reasonable for a leader to have a clearly articulated vision and set of values. Leaders should know what they stand for and communicate it to everyone on the team on a regular basis so they can use the same vision and values when making decisions.
As great leaders empower their team members to make decisions and decide courses of action, the leaders should make their own decision-making process transparent. They should walk their direct reports through the steps they use when making decisions. Thus, leaders can trust that the decision makers on their teams will use similar processes.
And finally, great leaders should ensure they are building a team of great decision makers around them. They must really probe into an individual’s decision-making system and sense of accountability during the interview and/or promotion process. They should also ensure that these individuals are strong communicators and leaders in their own right so that every employee understands the team’s (or organization’s) vision and values and how to apply them to decision-making.
If an entry-level employee or seasoned manager makes a poor decision, it is ultimately the responsibility of the organization’s leader. Not knowing about the decision is not a reason to shift accountability. It is the failure of the leader to have and articulate clear vision, values and decision-making criteria.
- Make Better Decisions by Getting Outside Your Social Bubble (blogs.hbr.org)
- The Most Successful Leaders Do 15 Things Automatically, Every Day (terehime.wordpress.com)