Tag Archive: blame

Abdicating Responsibility Is Not A Leadership Luxury

If you’re a leader, at some point you’ve probably shared ownership of your team’s successes. But being a good leader sometimes requires you to own their mistakes, too.

It’s this idea of owning it. All of it. It’s personal responsibility, and it’s also a responsibility toward those you lead.

A staff that has the value of “owning it” doesn’t pass along criticism. It doesn’t point the finger or say “that’s not my responsibility”.


Owning It is part 3 of 4 on staff values. Click on the values Information Sharing and Saying the Last 2% to read.


Like most people, I don’t like dealing with any customer service person (restaurant server, home improvement guy, or the help center phone agent at your preferred cellular company) who says something like this when you’re trying to get help:

“Well, that’s actually not my area, it’s their area…”

They point the finger, assign blame, or do whatever it takes to push responsibility elsewhere. They abdicate responsibility.

Minsters aren’t traditionally considered customer service representatives, but many times we function in that role. And I’m pretty sure church-goers don’t like it when their ministers avoid responsibility.

It happened to me this past Sunday. I was walking through our church’s atrium at 8 a.m., and one of our volunteer greeters at the welcome desk waved me over. She said, “I know it’s not your area, but I don’t know who to tell… We’ve had ants at the welcome desk for a couple weeks. I told a facilities person about it, but the ants are still here.”

I had several options at that point. I could:

A. Tell her where I’m at on our org chart, and let her know I’m not the ant guy;

B. Feign an allergic reaction to ants;

C. Provide her the email address of the senior leader who oversees the hospitality team, and ask her to report it through the correct department;

D. Tell her to look for the facility guys with the blue shirt and radios, and ask them for help;

E. Say “I’m sorry it didn’t get taken care of”, and personally commit to getting it solved.

Most readers would answer D or E. But you’re wording in E is key. We have to take personal ownership, which means saying “I’m sorry” instead of “I’m sorry someone else didn’t help you.” The volunteer that approached me last Sunday didn’t care about my title or the details of my job description. All she knew was I’m paid to serve the church. She was right.

Now, I didn’t spend my entire day Monday scouring the church for ants. But in this case, I did email facilities about the issue, asked them to address it, and update me when it was complete. (Owning it includes follow-up, too.)

Leaders and staff who own it:

  • Don’t look for others to blame. (Another way to say it is, “Don’t throw others under the bus”.)
  • Do take responsibility for issues publicly, and then privately deal with the need      and determine who can handle it best.
  • Don’t view themselves as above certain tasks – it’s an “everyone serves” mentality.”

The restaurants and stores I frequent faithfully are full of employees who own it.

I bet the same could be said for a lot of church attendees, too.

I first became aware of this phrase, “Owning It” as a part of a leadership talk based on the book The Oz Principle.


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