Thursday, October 11, 2018

Sorry about that: My board or boss made me do it! Leadership Default


Leaders can be strange creatures. We want to lead but there are times when we don't want to take responsibility for our leadership decisions which we know will be unpopular. So we look for a foil, someone else to blame for the bad news that is coming. Sometimes it is our board (My board said this is what we have to do). Other times it is our boss (I was told that this is what has to happen). Sometimes it is God (God told me to do this). 

In all three cases you will notice who is not responsible for the decision that has been made: The leader who is making the announcement. In essence the leader is saying "They have said we must do this" creating a deadly division between their staff and whoever he/she is blaming for the decision. Good leaders never blame others in the organization for decisions as it sets up a them/us mentality as if the "they" are not part of "us." 

Why do leaders name others who made a decision? It is simple. First, they want to be popular with their staff so blaming others means they themselves were not responsible. Second, when you blame others, what is staff going to say. If it is the board, they have ultimate authority! If it is my leader's boss, what can you say? If it is God, how do you argue with Him? In other words, the strategy is to blame someone who has more authority and is not in the room so there can be no discussion. Let me be clear. This is terrible leadership.

Think about this. How can the senior leader blame his/her board when they sit on the board? It is not "They have decided," but it is "We have decided" including that leader.

How can you blame your boss when your primary team is the team of your boss, not the team you lead. Blaming God is the ultimate strategy to shut down discussion in a Christian organization. What room is there for discussion when God has spoken?

I label all these behaviors as "Leadership Default." I have not taken personal responsibility for decisions that I have had a part in or that I am committed to supporting in my leadership role. In blaming others I am trying to deflect my involvement, shut down discussion and in doing so I create a them/us dichotomy that divides rather than unites. 

Leadership Default is poor leadership. And, unfair to staff who cannot engage in a discussion regarding the decision. It is unfair also to those we blamed who then look like the bad guys when that is rarely the case.


TJ Addington (Addington Consulting) has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at tjaddington@gmail.com.

"Creating cultures of organizational excellence."


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