the buck stops here

By October 16, 2012Leadership

It’s true: I’m a news geek. I watch the news, read it on my phone, and even watch C-SPAN on occasion (and not just the free-for-all British Parliament programming).

Normally I don’t venture into the political waters on this blog.  And this particular post is not intended for political purposes.  But something happened recently that I believe applies to leaders at all levels: Good leaders accept responsibility and accountability for what happens on their watch.

You probably know about the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya.  Four people were killed, including an ambassador.  The spin/fall-out/excuses started immediately. The first explanation blamed the deadly uproar on a YouTube video.  Later we learned it wasn’t a spontaneous attack, it had been planned for quite a while.  Yet people kept appearing on news programs telling us it was the video’s fault.

Then they started throwing each other (and each other’s agencies) under the bus.  “Nobody told us.”  “We didn’t know.”   It’s the ______ (fill-in your favorite politician or agency’s name) fault.

Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton threw herself under the bus: “I take responsibility.”

President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that read, “The buck stops here.”

That doesn’t mean Harry Truman (or any president or leader) must make every decision.  It does mean that good leaders accept responsibility for those they lead.  And with responsibility comes accountability.

Good leaders take the blame and spread the credit — that’s why they inspire trust and confidence.

Poor leaders spread the blame and take the credit — that’s why no one wants to die on the hill with them.

Where does the buck stop with you?