About Taking Responsibility
While in Omaha on vacation, I spent several hours working through a book titled “One Piece of Paper.” It was a leadership book by Mike Figliuolo. The premise of the book was that leadership is different for each person, and is shaped by an individual’s unique history. There were workbook style questions designed to help you remember times when you learned leadership lessons, and then the book instructed you to create memorable one liners (maxims) to encapsulate the lesson. Your “one piece of paper” is a single document that contains these maxims, which are leadership lessons derived from your life of experience. The simplicity of the document helps create clarity about what drives you as a leader.
One of the questions which I had to wrestle with was, “How will you hold yourself accountable?” When I was 20 years old, on a beach in Mexico with about 50 other Christian guys, I remember taking an oath of sorts to “reject passivity, expect God’s great reward, accept responsibility, and lead courageously.” Why is this biblical, and how could I help myself do it?
One thing that always strikes me is that God holds leaders to higher standards. In the Old Testament, there were various kings that ruled in the land of Judah. Some of them were evil, and some of them were good. Their actions, or inactions, set the stage for whether the entire land would experience the flourishing of righteousness or the decay of sin. God held the kings more accountable than the people.
In the New Testament, we see the same thing with teachers and pastors in the church. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” Hebrews 13:17 says that, “Church leaders will have to give an account.” When someone has leadership, their actions affect many, and God will hold them responsible.
My maxim for accepting responsibility goes all the way back to high school. When I was 16, I started playing a very famous game called Starcraft (South Korea’s national sport). I would regularly play with both real life and online friends. We would lose our share of games, and after every loss, I would immediately declare, “My fault.” Now, the game had a scoring system where you could see how well you did, and I was very rarely the weakest link in the chain. Even so, I always told my teammates that I could and needed to play better. The loss was “my fault.”
By accepting responsibility, a lot of good things happened. First, blaming others immediately looked ridiculous. “My teammates are already blaming themselves, why should/how can I blame them?” Second, when everyone else on the team is looking in the mirror, it helps you to look in the mirror too. This fosters an atmosphere of growth. Finally, even if I did play the best on my team, I wasn’t content with being better than my teammates. I wanted to be good enough to win, period. That was the standard I would hold myself to.
Failure comes with shame. With shame comes isolation. The reasons for passing the buck are obvious. However, when a leader consistently accepts responsibility, it removes the shame from failure. Therefore, with the acknowledgment of failure comes growth. And with the growth comes less failure and a better organization. Better results.
The Christian should accept responsibility more than anyone else. Our identity is in Christ. We are forgiven for our failures, and Christ has removed our shame. Therefore, because of Jesus, we are free to own our mistakes and grow into the greatness he has in store for us.