Great Leaders Take Accountability

“I Broke The Door” – Carrie Weaver

Today I woke up early to attend a Pilates class. I’ve been to this studio dozens of times. You should also know that doors typically don’t challenge me unless they’re super heavy. On my way in, the door felt really light and flew open at my average, door-opening strength pull. When it started to close, the closure mechanism jammed and left the door about 6-inches open (at 8am on a cold New York January morning).

I proceeded to march up to the counter, say “good morning”, followed by, “I broke the door”.

While the rest of the eager Pilates participants started their workout. The shop manager and I began to assess the situation, problem solve and hoist each other on chairs to fiddle with the closure mechanism. Finally, she turned to me and said, “this is ridiculous, you didn’t break the door. Go workout and I’ll figure out who to call.”

While I’d like to think I’ve had a number of more notable leadership moments, something struck me about my willingness to just own the challenge and start to solve the problem. It got me thinking about a work situation in which I was leading a team with an organizational wide initiative.

In a mass email to the organization, something went left, really left. The result had negative organizational implications. The individual on my team that caused the issue came to me and took urgent accountability. I did the same with the C-Level executives. When I briefed them on the problem at hand, I didn’t even mention my colleague’s role in the situation.

As the leader of the team, my mindset was that the buck stopped with me.

Had there been previous vetting of the program elements, more controls in place, more check-ins etc., the event may not have occurred. That’s on me. I remember when I shared the situation with the executives, they instantly knew it was not my specific action that caused the issue; however, they respected my decision to take the heat.

How willing are you to own outcomes that are both directly and indirectly tied to your actions?

Most of us move through life with so much fear that if we own something that wasn’t 100% our fault, we’ll get 100% of the blame. Then, our worst-case scenario will play out something like the following:

Getting fired > inability to find another job > financial ruin > living in a van down by the river.

What if however, the act of taking accountability actually elevates your status? What if peoples’ impression of you became the very definition of what it means to be a leader?

Let’s face it, we all dislike the behaviors of people who don’t take accountability. Especially those that throw others under the bus.

So why not just go for it? Own what’s both directly and indirectly yours. You’ll be surprised how much respect you receive for acting with such integrity.

Also, be careful with doors today!