Leadership: It Starts With You

“It was her fault”, said the Head of Planning for a mid-size manufacturing company I consulted for. The company was not meeting output results and one of the owners took a deep dive to find out why and found there was an unaccounted-for product that was missing from the planner’s reports.

This wasn’t the first time the planner made this type of mistake; this was small in comparison to the previous ones.  This time, the planner was blaming a woman who managed inventory. But she wasn’t at fault, and her boss backed her up. The business owner was pissed and dismissed the planner for the rest of the day.

Do you know who’s at fault?

It’s the leadership stupid! Leadership is hard. Read that again, leadership is hard. And the person at fault is not the planner, it’s the business owner who promoted him. He’s at fault because the planner has made the same mistake again and again. He’s at fault because he hasn’t recognized if this is an attitude or ability issue which has led to the planner constantly failing and not taking the time to coach him. He’s at fault because he’s an uninvolved business owner.

Put simply: If you ignore it, you condone it.

Most organizations are underled and overmanaged. Without a doubt, all of my clients have the same issues when it comes to leadership. Leadership isn’t:

  • Giving orders
  • Controlling people
  • Sitting in your office and never getting involved in your operation
  • Showing no interest in the development of your people

Leadership is the ultimate equalizer. It solves many problems that are common to underled organizations. But again, leadership is hard because it’s not about a title; it’s about ownership.

From Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink:

When it comes to standards, as a leader, it is not what you preach it’s what you tolerate. When setting expectations, if you accept a poor performance and no one takes responsibility (if there are no consequences), that poor performance becomes the new standard. Therefore, leaders must enforce the new standard.

Whether your team is successful or not, depends on you; the leader. Good leaders do not make excuses. Instead, they discover a way to do it and win

As a leader, the first thing you must do to improve your team’s performance is train, develop, and support them. Secondly, you must remove the obstacles to progress; your progress depends on it. If you can’t remove the obstacles, you become the obstacle.

In any team, in any organization, all responsibility for success and failure falls on the leader. The leader must own everything in his world. There is no one else to blame. The leader must recognize mistakes and admit failures, take responsibility for them, and develop a plan to win. The best leaders not only take responsibility for their job. They take extreme ownership of everything that impacts their mission. When subordinates are not doing what they should, leaders cannot blame them. They must first look in the mirror at themselves.

The leader has full responsibility for explaining the strategic mission, developing the tactics, and ensuring training and resources to enable the team to execute correctly and successfully. If a person on the team is not performing at the level required for the team to be successful, the leader must train and mentor that person with low performance. And if that person continues to underperform, it is the leader’s responsibility to eliminate that person from the team.

With that said, I’ll finish with this:

  • If your hire doesn’t work out; it’s your fault.
  • If the person you promoted doesn’t work out; it’s your fault.
  • If your team isn’t working at their best; it’s your fault.
  • If the business isn’t working at its best; it’s your fault.

Leadership isn’t for everyone. Is it for you?

Bottom line: As a leader you own everything. If you don’t like what you see and want things to be different, look in the mirror because it starts with you.

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