Sometimes crazy things happen. Employees make bad decisions. Contractual obligations are overlooked. And people don’t always follow through on commitments.
It’s not the mere fact those things happen that matters. It’s what you—as the leader—do next. Do you point the finger and blame others? Or do you choose to own the situation and circumstance by choosing to do something about it?
I’ve seen it far too many times. Something doesn’t go as planned. Survival instincts kick in, and everyone jumps to defend their position. Or worse, someone appears with documentation intended to vindicate them and their role in the problem.
Stop trying to cover yourself, and start owning the situation. Determine what to do next. And commit to seeing it through until the negative effects dissolve or—at the very least—are neutralized.
Here are a few good rules of thumb: If you want to lead, be ready to …
Take the good with the bad.
Act—even when you didn’t see it coming.
Own the outcome whether or not you directly participated in creating it.
Turn a difficult circumstance into an outstanding opportunity.
Failure Is Part of the Job
Anyone who tells me they haven’t failed is someone who hasn’t carried any actual responsibility before. It tells me you either can’t be trusted or no one has trusted you enough yet.
I know that probably sounds harsh. But the reality is leadership …
Is going somewhere you’ve never been before.
Means being first to arrive—and the last to leave.
Brings with it the good and the bad.
Failure is part of the game. Sometimes you are the cause of the failure. Other times, someone else on your team caused the difficult situation you must now find a way to remedy. Nevertheless, the point is a true leader will take the challenging circumstance and turn it into an opportunity for growth, learning, and success.
The leaders we admire the most are not free of failure, bad decisions, or had a team of brilliant people who never made a mistake. Instead, those leaders …
Took the heat when it should have been dealt our way.
Stood in front of us and took the blow on our behalf.
Leaned into the conflict when we wanted to find anywhere else to be.
Those leaders aren’t any different from you or me. The only thing that separates us from them is their fundamental belief that ownership is the most important and effective way to inspire loyalty, devotion, and commitment to a cause, business, or plan.
I can overlook a lot of things from new and seasoned leaders. But when it comes to ownership, there is very little wiggle room in my book. Either you own it, or someone else will.
Just because it isn’t your fault doesn’t mean it isn’t your responsibility. That’s what ownership is all about. And in the end, leadership is ownership.