Ken Blanchard once said: If you want to know why your people are not performing well, step up to the mirror and take a peak. When was the last time you saw a local business leader demonstrate accountability and responsibility? Or make a very disastrous business decision? We’d guess we’ve all seen our leaders make bad decisions at least occasionally.
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But here’s the thing. For every famous mega-disaster, a thousand slip under the radar screen. And every time we confront one of these nightmares, big or small, we ask ourselves, “Why do they do it?” Ironically, it rarely has anything to do with leaders’ intelligence or even awareness that their actions will likely do more harm than good.
So what is behind the behavior and bad decision making? On many instances, they put their own self-interest ahead of those they serve, and then rationalize or compartmentalize their behavior so they don’t face the loathsome truth.
In other words, bad leaders are often selfish, weak-minded and blissfully unaware that their self-image is a skewed version of reality. The truth is we all behave that way from time to time and to varying degrees.
Which brings us to the main point: Every one of us can do with an extra dose of humility and self-awareness to remind us that we’re not always the insanely great business leaders we believe we are.
Here are seven simple thoughts you should get your head and ego around to help you be a more accountable leader:
Accountability and responsibility … what can go wrong?
What am I missing? What can derail our plan? It’s such a great feeling to get everyone all hyped up over a hot product idea or corporate vision that you just hate to take a step back and ask what can go wrong. But, guess what? Skipping this crucial step is a sign of an immature leader who’s not ready for prime time.
Actually, I don’t know
It took me years to learn how to say that consistently, and you know what? It improved my credibility while lowering my stress at the same time. It’s the same as admitting your wrong: it’s a tremendous relief to let go and admit you don’t know everything.
Let me think about it and get back to you
When I was a young manager, I was taught to be a decisive leader. That’s fine as long as you’re not doing it just for show or overreacting to less data than you need to make a well-informed decision. In other words, listen to your gut, not your ego.
Leadership and accountability … what do you expect of me?
What can I do for you? It’s not just a customer service attitude. It also helps you steer clear of making incorrect assumptions and goes a long way to clarifying goals, objectives and all sorts of things to keep you on the right path. When in doubt, ask.
Do the right thing
When leaders use those four simple words to guide their decisions and encourage others to do the same, it helps create a culture that questions the status quo and encourages smart risk-taking that won’t eventually land everyone in hot water.
Leadership and accountability … I accept full responsibility
Most say it; few actually do it. Some even say it and still manage to blame everything and everybody but themselves. Leaders who make excuses are poor excuses for leaders.
Sorry, I was wrong
Apple CEO Tim Cook apologized to customers over the iPhone 5 maps debacle, and rumor has it that former mobile software chief had a real problem with that. That’s one of the reasons he’s a “former” Apple executive.
Making sound decisions to take action the right way is difficult to say the least. It takes courage, patience, and perseverance. Most of us know that because we’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way. Just pay close attention and stay well grounded in these simple thoughts.
A characteristic of leadership – seeing a costly mistake or a learning investment?
Tom Watson Jr., CEO of IBM between 1956 and 1971, was a key figure in the information revolution. Watson repeatedly demonstrated his abilities as a leader, never more so than in our first short story.
A young executive had made some bad decisions that cost the company several million dollars. He was summoned to Watson’s office, fully expecting to be dismissed. As he entered the office, the young executive said, “I suppose after that set of mistakes you will want to fire me.” Watson was said to have replied,
“Not at all, young man, we have just spent a couple of million dollars educating you.”
(Source: Edgar Schein in his book Organisational Culture and Leadership)
This story provides a strong message of support and a reminder that some of the most powerful lessons we can learn are from our so-called failures or difficult times.
Remember Edison’s famous saying: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Edison also demonstrated a great response to adversity which compliments Watson Jr’s actions.
When his factory was burned down, with much of his life’s work inside, Edison said: “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.”
A characteristic of leadership is to see things differently. Seeing mistakes as an investment in learning. Seeing that, even in disaster, you can start anew.
The bottom line
The examples of leadership and accountability are all around us. All we have to do is be open minded in how we look and how we apply the best lessons learned.
Now it’s your turn. What are the leadership and accountability ideas you have seen lately?
Do you have any stories from your leadership experience vault that you could share with this community?
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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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