Leaders aren’t perfect; everyone knows that. But the mistakes you make in a position of leadership are more recognized due to the profile of the project, or the impact of the decision. It’s the moment when criticism of the decision starts to roll in that separates great leaders from the pack. One of the qualities of leadership is the ability to accept responsibility for the final decision. Accepting responsibility affects your team in three important ways.
1. Builds Respect
It’s hard to have respect for a boss who shifts blame to their team when things don’t go as intended. Over time the team becomes resentful of everything that person says or does, to the point where it’s impossible to work for that person. Team members rebel by slowing down the pace of their work, undermining the boss’ authority, and turning in a sub-par performance. When combined, these end up creating a toxic work environment.
As a leader, you garner respect from the team when you accept responsibility. They know you aren’t trying to hide from the consequences of your decision. Always remember: Respect is slippery, difficult to gain, but far too easy to lose.
2. Increases Motivation
The ability to motivate a staff is a hallmark of good leadership. The strength of your personality, your individual desire to perform, and a sense of team spirit may motivate your team. When you shoulder responsibility for the final decision, you motivate your team by fostering a positive working environment. Your team knows they won’t become your excuse when things don’t turn out as intended.
3. Generates Trust
Your relationship with your team is not the only one at stake; your relationship with your own superiors is too. This holds true at every level. From the fry cook who is accountable to the shift manager, all the way to the CEO who is beholden to shareholders; there is always a level of accountability.
Bad decisions happen from time to time, but it’s your response that affects how your superiors see you. If you lie to them or try to shift blame onto someone else, your motives become suspect and your superiors will start to wonder what other things you might be hiding from them. They are much less likely to give you a second chance if they think you’re being deceitful, and you will lose the trust they had in you. Taking responsibility for your decision demonstrates strength of character. This is one of the most valuable traits you can exhibit as a leader.
Accepting responsibility for the final decision doesn’t mean that you have to stand by your decision, or make an argument that it’s the right course of action. Responsibility means that after weighing several options you made the decision that you thought was best. Though you may have received input from other people, you alone must be accountable for the outcome of the decision.