To accept the challenge of leadership is to accept responsibility. It is to shoulder burdens that others are unwilling to bear. It is to engage in a relentless pursuit of excellence, to never rest on your laurels, to always strive to improve your performance and results. A leader cannot blame anyone else for his or her team’s lack of results. The only finger a leader can ever point—if he or she wants to be effective—is at him- or herself.
Many people aspire to leadership because of the potential glory it offers while being ignorant of the certain loneliness it requires. Before a leader can earn great rewards, he or she must first bear an unfair load. While a leader cannot point fingers of blame, there are always plenty of fingers pointed at a leader by other people. Everyone looks to the leader for ultimate responsibility. It’s not fair; nor is it easy.
US President Harry Truman kept a sign on his desk that expressed the lesson of the unfair load well. It said: “The buck stops here.” Effective leadership is an exercise in extreme responsibility. Even when other people are to blame for something that goes wrong, you can’t point fingers at anyone except yourself. A true leader never whines that his or her people “just don’t get it.” Rather, a true leader asks him- or herself, “Where have I failed? What must I learn from this? What more can I do?” Great leaders are hard on themselves and easy on others. That example of extreme personal accountability inspires others to follow suit and creates a culture of accountability.
As a leader, you will be required to deal with things that are unfair. You will be called to shoulder extra burdens. People will blame you for things that really aren’t your fault. You will be criticized and scorned, overlooked and belittled, neglected and rejected. But if you stick with it through those hard times, you will also be recognized, praised, and rewarded. You will grow in ability and influence. You will feel the profound satisfaction that only comes from knowing you have made a difference. There’s nothing easy about leadership. But those willing to accept the unfair load “wouldn’t be elsewhere for thousands,” as Lord Nelson put it.
(Posted by Kristen Seidl, on behalf of Chris Brady)