Thoughts on Leadership: Total Responsibility

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me starting the week with my typical Monday WIG calls and on Tuesday, attending the Berkshire Hathaway Energy Team Meeting. The rest of the week, I’m preparing for our HomeServices of America CEO Leadership Conference, coming up soon.

This Monday night, I watched the Alabama game, as the incredible college football team won the national championship against Ohio State, 52-24. Watching that game, I couldn’t help but think about two great leaders, two great friends and two great franchisees—Dewey Mitchell and Allen Crumbley, broker/owners of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Properties Group, who both played football under the leadership of legendary Alabama coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant. (Allen is pictured with Coach Bear Bryant in the photo.) One of my favorite quotes, spoken by their former coach Bear Bryant, is this: “If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes well, then you did it. That’s all it takes to get people to win football games for you.”

So, what did Bear Bryant mean by “if anything goes bad, I did it”? Well, if anything goes bad, if a player missed an assignment, jumped offsides or had any type of mental error, Bear Bryant took absolute responsibility for it because he was responsible for getting every player completely prepared for the game.

Many people don’t like to accept personal responsibility, though they expect it in others. It’s a concept one of my favorite mentors, Jim Rohn constantly emphasized. The same person who might tweet an airline if their flight is delayed would never send a tweet to themselves if they’re late for a meeting. Rohn says there’s a connection between success and responsibility: You will never be as successful as you want to become until you accept personal responsibility.

Rohn explains, “It’s in your best interest to take responsibility for everything you do but that’s only the beginning; I’m also going to suggest that many times it’s even best to accept responsibility for the mistakes of others, especially when you’re in a managerial or leadership role.”

When you accept responsibility for not only yourself but also your team, you express one of the highest forms of maturity, you become the ultimate leader, which is exactly what the Bear Bryant example shows. Still, many people are unwilling to accept responsibility in such an extreme and all-encompassing way, which is good news for you, says Rohn. Because there is a large number of people who shirk responsibility, he says there’s a big opportunity to stand out and become a true leader. A responsible leader is someone who deserves to lead. They decide to be different—to be responsible—and because of this one decision, they’re able to achieve success and inspire others to do the same. Winston Churchill once said, “Responsibility is the price of greatness.” And as Rohn says, “It’s a small price to pay.”

In a February 2020 article for Harvard Business Review, author Melissa Raffoni says even when a team member is acting irresponsibly, you should first look inward to really address the issue. She writes that instead of asking someone, “Why aren’t you doing your part?” Ask them, “Is there anything I can do differently to help?” Specifically, she lists four considerations to think about when faced with an under-performing team member:

  1. Consider how clear and consistent you’ve been about your expectations of their specific role on the team.
  2. Consider if you’ve really done all you could do to promote and motivate their success.
  3. Consider if you’ve taken adequate time to review the processes and system you have in place and if they allow the team member to execute on their goals.
  4. Consider how solid your plan of action is to accomplish your team’s goals.

Raffoni writes, “Self-awareness is a leadership superpower, and reflecting in this way may help you recognize any unhelpful patterns that you can fall into.”

So, what’s the message? Responsibility is really just the acceptance of the consequences of your actions and the actions of your team members. It means no matter what happens, you hold yourself accountable and responsible – for the success, for the failures and for everything in between.  

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