Monday, June 23, 2008
Responsible Leaders :Major (R)Khalid Nasr Taking responsibility for one's actions is a key component of success as an individual. And taking responsibilty for what your team does is a key component of leadership. When one doesn't do that, failure is just around the corner. Avoiding responsibility in one's personal life carries over into one's professional life, and vice versa. Excuses for failure and the choices you make at workplace fuel dysfunctional thinking and, subsequently, undesirable behaviour and actions. This is why taking responsibility is so powerfully important and is the essence of what can make or break a leader. Take responsibility at workplace Taking responsibility is the underlying factor behind success at work. If someone in your team makes a mistake, you must be able to admit it, take the necessary action and then proceed. This is something that many do not understand. No leader can be successful without being accountable for his/her own actions. Being responsible ensures that even when events outside your control go awry, you can at least determine how you will react to the situation. You can make the situation a disaster or you can use it as an opportunity to learn and to grow. Why people don't admit their mistakes Mistakes bring about a feeling of tension and anxiety within the individual. At such times, the mind seeks rational ways of escaping the situation. A range of defence mechanisms can be triggered. These defence mechanisms are subconsciously employed to protect the ego and they tend to distort, transform, or otherwise falsify reality. One uses these 'deceptions' to avoid facing issues of guilt, failure, fear, emotional pain, or embarrassment. In distorting reality, there is a change in perception which helps to lessen anxiety. There are many defence mechanisms. Some examples are: Denial: Claiming/believing what is true to be false Projection: Attributing uncomfortable feelings to others Displacement: Redirecting emotions to a substitute target Rationalisation: Creating false but credible justifications Reaction formation: Overeacting in an opposite way to the fear Intellectualisation: Taking an objective viewpoint in order to ignore the emotional aspect Regression: Going back to acting like a child Repression: Pushing uncomfortable thoughts into the subconscious Sublimation: Redirecting 'wrong' urges into socially acceptable actions Some defence mechanisms are healthy. However, we sometimes either use them at the wrong time or overuse them, which can be destructive. For example, a leader whose team keeps failing, may misuse defence mechanisms such as rationalisation, projection, or denial, often. Common defensive expressions used at the workplace "It was not my fault." (blaming others without accepting personal responsibility) "It wasn't all that important." (belittling the act) "It happened a long time ago." (implying it doesn't matter anymore) "They made me do it." (blaming others for a personal wrong act) "There was no other way out." (justification of wrong) "It only happened once." (rationalisation) "Everyone does it." (rationalisation) "I am only human." (indirectly blaming god) "Well, no one is perfect." (general comparison to shift the guilt) "The contract we lost was not a good one anyway." (a case of 'sour grapes' -- another defense mechanism) How to take responsibility as a leader Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind: 1.Acknowledge that your work is your responsibility 2.Demonstrate accountability. 3.Make no excuses 4.Listen to the little voice inside your head. The next time you catch yourself making an excuse, whether for a missed deadline or an unmet goal, gently remind yourself -- no excuses. Excuses fuel failure. 5.Listen to yourself when you speak 6.Take feedback seriously If someone gives you feedback that you make excuses and blame others for your troubles-----------------control your defensive action, explore examples and deepen your understanding of the situation. Thus, when events at the workplace exert pressure on you, you can respond positively or negatively. Those who respond positively and take responsibility rather than blame others or be indifferent are the ones who grow as leaders. Consequently, they develop the foundation for great positive responses, great achievement, and great success in leadership.