In yesterday’s blog post, we looked at the difference between leaders who accept responsibility and leaders who instead blame other people and things for their mistakes.
Today I want to focus on a critical mistake many leaders make: in the journey from blaming others to accepting full responsibility, it’s easier for a leader to get stuck blaming themselves. Because we feel like blame needs to go somewhere, and because we no longer blame others, we simply blame ourselves. That’s a significant mistake. (I know I tend to do this. Sometimes I am obsessed with fault, and in a sincere desire to not blame others (I’m working really hard on this), I will sometimes blame myself.) It arises innocently enough because you’ve probably had numerous people tell you “don’t blame yourself”. But because you won’t blame others and because you shouldn’t blame yourself, responsibility somehow gets lost in the shuffle. And that’s a problem.
Even though blaming yourself might be a step up from blaming others, it will stunt your growth as a person and as a leader. And having no one take responsibility is a big mistake.
So how do you work through this? Change the way you think:
Think of leadership as acceptance of responsibility rather than assignment of blame.
Responsibility is almost always healthy. Conversely, I have yet to find a context in which blame really helps the situation other than in a momentary attempt to save the team. Long term, it’s benefits are questionable.
Here are some key differences between blame and responsibility:
Blame looks to the past. Responsibility looks to the future.
Blame looks outside. Responsibility looks inside.
Blame focuses on things beyond your control. Responsibility focuses on things within your control.
Blame is destructive. Responsibility is constructive.
Blame hurts. Responsibility helps.
As a leader, then, one of the best things you can do is accept responsibility. If you blame yourself, you will get caught up in a self defeating cycle of negativism. If you accept responsibility, you will grow.
To some extent, I think this is related to confession. Confession without repentance and forgiveness can lead to self-pity. Confession accompanied by repentance and forgiveness leads to transformation.
In the same way, acceptance of responsibility in leadership leads to transformation.
What are you blaming yourself for? How can you accept responsibility instead?