'Blamestorm' Shows Absence Of Leadership

Guest Correspondence

Leadership expert and author John Maxwell wrote, “Leadership is taking responsibility while others are making excuses.”

I had recently thought that responsibility and accountability was one in the same. I was wrong. 

Accountability is measuring the outcomes, transparently dealing with the lack of productivity, and setting a course for correction, if needed. We have seen an overall absence of this in government.

But responsibility is different. It includes accountability, but it is actually much bigger than outcomes. It is the reason why you get to the point you have reached. 

Every leader fails, they would not be a leader if they didn’t. It is how they handle failure that separates those who are great leaders and those who never should have been a leader to begin with.

After watching the dramas unfolding recently in local government, I had my epiphany about responsibility and accountability. It occurred to me that a failure to take responsibility was a bigger problem in government than accountability. Responsibility failures are so intrinsically tied to leadership implosions that they are almost one in the same.

Responsibility is guiding and setting the tone and expectations for the organization by example. It is a moral principle, accepting culpability of those actions and decisions made by employees under his or her leadership with alacrity.

A leader becomes a liability when they “blamestorm,” as John Maxwell calls it. This happens when the leader spends their time shifting blame to other people, circumstances and problems. Justifying the outcome is the priority rather than identifying the problem and fixing it. 

A good leader admits error and spends time unifying his team and reaching out to the organization’s partners to come up with solutions and a new path to success. It is about improving the organization, not saving your personal hide.

John Maxwell elaborated on the success of leaders who take responsibility, “Taking responsibility for your life is a choice. That doesn’t mean you believe you are in control of everything in your life. That’s not humanly possible. But you can take responsibility for yourself and every choice you have. That often makes the difference between someone who learns from loss… and someone who just loses.”

It is our sincere hope that our government employees begin to see leaders that take responsibility. A new government culture is important for our future. Our elected officials need to lead this culture by demanding responsibility from their administrators and using accountability to get there.

Christine Robinson is executive director of The Argus Foundation.

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