Emergency Declaration: Leaders Should Take Responsibility - Leadership Speaker Philippines

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Emergency Declaration: Leaders Should Take Responsibility

The movie (Emergency Declaration) ended with silence, a piece of short mellow music that allowed us to think through. After leaving the movie house, my wife asked me, "What have you realized?"

I said, "Great leaders take responsibility." 
If you think I will spoil the story and plot of the movie, you are wrong. I am writing this not to tell you the details. Let me excite and encourage you at the same time to watch it on your own. Emergency Declaration is worth watching. It is an excellent movie with a profound message on leadership. 

But if you would ask me, my takeaway is about "leadership and taking responsibility."

Why is it essential for leaders to take responsibility? Because it gives people ownership and confidence. 

In a study by Albert Bandura and Robert Wood (1989), they found that self-confidence builds people's performance and productivity. Such confidence in people is developed when their leaders trust them and give them some leeway in decision-making. 

When I was a grade school teacher ten years ago, I had a conversation with a parent of my pupil. At that time, I wondered why my student was hesitant to make simple decisions and had difficulty initiating help. 

He was like a robot that needed to be activated to do actions. My student kept on blaming others for his own fault. He lacked in taking responsibility for the mistakes he's doing. At the same time, he did not want to become a leader because of "responsibilities." 

The parent admitted and recognized that such behavior could be a result of her "perfectionist personality." She did not allow her child to clean the house because the parent had a set of routines for cleaning that her child couldn't follow. 

Because of this, the parent gets frustrated. She scolded him every time her son made wrong decisions. In other words, she did not allow her son to decide on simple things. 

It was the first time I realized how many people can't take responsibility. Sometimes, it is not because they are not capable. It is only because their confidence is not strongly built. 

Ten years later, I see the same scenario in my corporate clients. People in organizations with stringent and stiff rules are less productive than those who belong in progressive companies. 

When I say progressive, they have policies to maintain order but continually grow and update their regulations based on the current demands. Their leaders allow their subordinates to independently decide, fail, suggest, and solve problems. These progressive companies produce high-performing talents and exponential growth each year.

In the United States, companies in Fortune 200 that empowered their leaders through higher spending authority outperformed the other organizations that had many signatories and protocols on budgeting and spending. (Posner et al., 1985).

In connection to this, Professor Leonard Schlesinger of Havard Business School revealed the two best practices of companies that provide exceptional customer experience: first, their employees have the "latitude" or the leeway to meet the customer needs; second, their organization's talents have the "discretion" or sufficient authority to serve what the client wants.

Many studies would support how "controlling people" can lead to low self-confidence and low productivity. The result? They are afraid to take responsibility. On the other hand, giving them "latitude" and "discretion" can increase their sense of ownership. Many of them own the company as if it is really their own. 

CEO of Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation, Jack Stack, explicitly explained the deeper meaning of "ownership" when he shared, 

"We have a company filled with people who not only are owners but who think and act like owners rather than employees. That's an important distinction. Getting people to think and act like owners goes far beyond giving them equity. They have all the knowledge, understanding, and information they need to make a decision, and they have the motivation and the will to act fast. Ownership is not a set of legal rights. It's a state of mind."

The more ownership mentality that our people possess, the more they are engaged. The more they are engaged, the more they take responsibility. 

If your talents take responsibility, they will take the blame for their own mistakes. To the point, even if it is not their mistake, but no one is taking the burden caused by wrong decisions, they take it. It is not because they want to be a hero but because they are selfless enough to think of the "we" more than "me."

If I may reiterate what Jack Stack said, we can say that leadership is not a legal right, a title, or a badge. It is a state of mind, a mental paradigm translated to our actions.

Now I am talking to the leaders. Let us show what leadership is. Taking responsibility means, first, if we mess up, it is not harmful to say sorry. Build credibility by staying real, genuine, and teachable; second, allow our people to be humans. Let them practice and increase their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Get ready to rescue anytime if needed, and third, share the credit with all. If they win, recognize them. If you win, share the victory. 

It is no longer about you or me. It is now about us. There is an automatic response to be selfless when we start to embrace the reality that leaders are meant to serve above themselves.

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Unit 304 LN Business Center, A. Bonifacio Ave., Cainta, Rizal Philippines