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Leadership is NOT Dodgeball

Dodgeball (1)

Leadership today seems to be all too often confused with playing a game of dodgeball. It’s as if many leaders show-up for work each day with a freshly applied coat of Teflon, ready to duck and dodge anything that comes their way. Let me be clear – I appreciate savvy and finesse as much as the next person, but not as a substitute for courage. We have too many people in leadership positions who can’t or won’t accept responsibility for anything. Put simply, leadership is about accountability, and not only being willing to take the hit, but also being capable of surviving the hit. Leadership IS ownership…

If your immediate response to a problem is to spin, deflect, or blame-shift, then you’ve got a lot to learn about leadership. Those whom you lead are not looking for you to step back or step aside from issues, they’re looking for you to step-up and hit issues head on. The fastest way to lose respect as a leader is to focus on optics over ethics. If you’re more concerned about political fallout than solving the problem you have failed as a leader. Even though responsibility for decisions defaults to the leader, responsibility should be a thing of design, not default. It should be readily accepted and not easily denied – this is real leadership.

The entire world seems to be crying out for real leadership right now. Not leaders in title, but leaders in action. Whether in the boardroom, political arena, or on the front lines, leadership is far more than holding press conferences, giving speeches, and presiding over meetings and committees. Leadership is owning the responsibility for getting things done or failing to do so. Remember, specificity of thought and deed shatters the comfort and safety sought by those who prefer to remain in the shadows of vague rhetoric.

Let’s look at this another way – when was the last time you held a leader in high regard who dodged the issue, didn’t do the right thing, failed to accept responsibility, took credit for another person’s achievements, or blamed someone else for their mistakes? My guess is that your answer, as it should be, is never. While people will take issue with arrogance or ignorance, they will usually accept an honest mistake – especially where sincere contrition and remorse exist.

Here’s the thing – sane people don’t expect perfection from leaders, but they do expect leaders to be transparent and accountable. Accepting responsibility for your actions, or the actions of your team makes you honorable, and trustworthy – it also humanizes you. People don’t want the talking head of a politician for a leader, they want someone they can connect to, and relate with. They not only want someone they trust, but someone who trusts them as well.

If you take one thing away from today’s post, it should be this: leadership isn’t about you, your ego, your pride, or your personal ambition – it’s about caring for and serving those you lead, while accomplishing the mission at hand. Leadership has very little to do with the leader, and everything to do with those being led.

I knew a great football coach who used to say “Step-up and take the hit or get off the field.” My sentiments exactly. Thoughts?

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    Mike Henry Sr.

    September 19, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    Thanks Mike for another great post.  Every manager I’ve ever appreciated put the team and the objectives ahead of their own comfort or press.  And everyone of them went on to greater success as a result. 

      Mike Myatt

      September 19, 2011 at 11:59 pm

      Hi Mike: 

      Your experience precisely mirrors mine. Thanks for stopping by Sir.

    Charl Erasmus

    September 20, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Your articles is something to look forward to. You have coined something being debated so many times, into the essence of it. Many people want the management title for salary and prestige.

    Leadership (and some associates this with management), is about serving and making sure everyone gets the best out of situations as possible.

    Thank you for the insight.

    Charl Erasmus

    September 20, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Your articles is something to look forward to. You have coined something being debated so many times, into the essence of it. Many people want the management title for salary and prestige.

    Leadership (and some associates this with management), is about serving and making sure everyone gets the best out of situations as possible.

    Thank you for the insight.

      Mike Myatt

      September 20, 2011 at 1:51 pm

      Hi Charl:

      Thanks for your kind words. Nothing good happens when leaders become too self-involved, yet so many fall into this trap. It’s an outward focus that gets things accomplished, and the best leaders always seem to have an intrinsic understanding of this. Thanks again for sharing Charl. 

      Mike Myatt

      September 20, 2011 at 1:51 pm

      Hi Charl:

      Thanks for your kind words. Nothing good happens when leaders become too self-involved, yet so many fall into this trap. It’s an outward focus that gets things accomplished, and the best leaders always seem to have an intrinsic understanding of this. Thanks again for sharing Charl. 

    jslevin

    September 21, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Makes me think of 3 quotes of General Patton. 
    1. A piece of spaghetti or a military unit can only be led from the front end.
    2. Always do everything you ask of those you command. 
    3. All very successful commanders are prima donnas and must be so treated. 

      Mike Myatt

      September 21, 2011 at 5:50 pm

      If I had been given the pleasure of the opportunity to have known General Patton, I’m sure I would have developed a love hate relationship with him. He was brilliant on many levels and challenged on others. I loved his passion, candor, intellect, and distaste for politics,. I struggled with with his impulsivity and ego. Like all humans he had strengths and weaknesses, but unlike many, he made the most out of his strengths. All in all, I’m a fan. Thanks for sharing.

      SAS

      September 26, 2011 at 3:02 pm

      I think much can  be learned from scripture about leadership:
      “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”Eph 6:10-18 NIV

      SAS

      September 26, 2011 at 3:02 pm

      I think much can  be learned from scripture about leadership:
      “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”Eph 6:10-18 NIV

    Tanveer Naseer

    September 21, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Hi Mike,

    While reading your piece, one thought that kept coming to my mind was how the word leadership starts with the verb “lead”, which last time I checked means to guide or show the way, not duck for cover or deflect blame to others when things go afoul.

    One can’t expect someone to lead others through tough times if they can’t guide or show themselves the way out of a mess.

    Bean Sorromei

    September 22, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Nothing is every my fault.  If it is wrong then my supervisor messed it up.  If it is right then I will take all credit.  I work best in an environment of no accountability.

      Mike Myatt

      October 10, 2011 at 3:28 pm

      It’s sad that so many people actually seem to feel this way. I’ve met some very talented people who failed to capitalize on great opportunities because their arrogance precluded them from understanding the importance of other’s contributions.  

    Laura S. Morrison

    July 16, 2012 at 5:40 am

    And what should I do if on the contrary I’m not a leader incarnate but I have to hold the leading position at the office? I really have another out and this makes me feel uncomfortable all the time. Still, I would like to have an opportunity to feel convenient and calm when I’m at work…Is there any chance to help me, Mike?
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