Articles of Faith: Leaders Take Responsibility

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This post is part of our Sunday Series titled “Articles of Faith.”
We investigate leadership lessons from the Bible.
See the whole series here. Published only on Sundays.
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Everyone is a leader…

No matter if you are a one day-old or 121-years young, you have influence over someone else. So everyone is in a leadership position of some kind. From leading yourself, or a family, or a single parent with children, or a CEO, or The President; everyone is a leader of someone. Therefore all of us have influence over ourselves and over someone else. And with that, we are responsible for that influence.

Jeremiah understood this. When God called him he responded with a “Yes!” Without question, Jeremiah the prophet had one of the toughest assignments to date. Not that much different than some of the assignments that you and I are facing today; calling people to change, to move people in a new direction. Jeremiah took responsibility. He was an authentic leader.

Old Fashioned People Mover

Leadership means to transport one or more from where they are to some other place. That other place can be good or bad in terms of the journey or in terms of the eventual outcome. We transport others by influencing someone to do something that has never been done before. And with doing this, there is always risk involved. Because leaders move people, the only way to positively move people is to connect with them. And this must be done on an individual and collective basis.

That connection is built on trust, trust is built on truth, and truth is built on taking responsibility.

I’m sure you have noticed that many leaders today never seemingly take responsibility. Look at Haiti’s post-earthquake conditions for one example of this. It seems like everyone is blaming someone else for the problems. True leaders do not blame or pass the buck. They take responsibility. You and I are responsible as leaders (and as people movers) to do what is right no matter what the polls say, nor what others think, and no matter how much money or personal gain we will lose or make.

When we accept responsibility it includes:

• Acknowledging that you are solely responsible for the choices in your life.
• Accepting that you are responsible for what you choose to feel or think.
• Accepting that you choose the direction for your life.
• Accepting that you cannot blame others for the choices you have made.
• Tearing down the mask of defense or rationale for why “others are responsible” for who you are, or what has happened to you, or what you are bound to become.

I could go on and on and on, but rather, simply look at the news and count how many issues our national government is dealing with because leaders have not and will not take responsibility for their actions. See how many times another person, institution, or previous administration is held up as the one to blame. Does this strike you as ‘leadership” when you hear and see this type of behavior? You can see it at all levels in the government, business, families, and individuals. No go back and study any historically significant leader and see if they took responsibility, or if they engaged in blamestorming.

Why do we personally, professionally, and as a society tolerate irresponsibility?

As my pastor reminded us “Irresponsibility is not neutral.”

Irresponsibility costs everyone something. Collectively, why don’t we often enough just stand up and be responsible and just do what is right based on our actions? Could it be that the world/people are not getting better at accepting responsibility because we have become accustomed to irresponsibility? I wonder what the world would like if leaders today would just take responsibility, be honest and tell the truth? I wonder what the world would be like if we had more Jeremiahs?

May be President Kennedy had it right when he said.

Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

In my book “Leadership in Blue Jeans,” I share with the reader very transparently a time in my life where I learned this lesson of taking responsibility as a leader no matter what the cost. It helped me to become a secure leader. I trust it will help many others who hear this.

This is why I shared this leadership lesson with you and also why I sat down to write the book. If an ordinary person like me in blue jeans can learn and apply lessons in life to become a better leader, so can you – it is our responsibility.

So what are you doing to step up and take responsibility as a leader? Are you doing this in all cases where you are the person in charge? Or do you make sure you spread the blame sometimes just to make your life “easier?” Also, do you step up and take responsibility for solutions even when you are not the person in positional authority? What lessons have you learned about leadership by taking the high road? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Tom Atema is VP of Business Development at John C. Maxwell’s non-profit EQUIP organization.
He can be reached at tom.atema@iequip.org

Image Sources: en.wikipedia.org, 1.bp.blogspot.com

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3 Responses

  1. Thanks Tom. Good food for thought

  2. Great post Tom. Thank you for not only the fresh reminder, but call to action to all. It is important that we acknowledge the root cause of the “in-ability” to take responsibility in any situation. The root is often a deeply personal issue, one that was nurutured through behavior and choices throughout the years.

    To break this cycle, leaders must have bold people around them that are willing to reflect the mirror back as needed. To expose the error in judgment and call out the behavior. When leaders are truly ready to go vulnerable and ask for help in exposing the root of their denial, means they are ready for the first step in the right direction.

    Finger pointing, blame games and denial are not signs of leadership. They are cowardly and fear-based. And that must be dug up at the roots to allow the transformation to begin.

  3. [...] a world of passing the buck, we have so few good examples of how to admit our mistakes. So watch the video below as Tom Vilsack [...]

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