Every now and again, I hear from a certain old acquaintance of mine. Now, I’m someone who tends to maintain long relationships (you should see my Holiday card list – it’s a major undertaking), so I’m always glad when the phone rings or that email comes through. I look forward to hearing all of the great things that have happened in this person’s life. But over the last few years, it seems the great things are few and far between. It’s more of a venting session these days, to be frank. There’s a lot of negativity about work, who did what to who or whatever. It’s the same on the news, in Congress, on the radio. There’s lots of vitriol here and there, and for this friend, very little personal accountability. I don’t get frustrated when he’s upset, especially when that’s all that we hear day in and day out in this hyper-polarized world we live in. But it sure can bring you down.
Other people say that you should only surround yourself with people that inspire you – that you are the sum of the five people you hold dearest. There’s a lot of truth to that. But I think reality makes that hard to maintain, and I want to work hard to lift people up as much as I can.
So, if you’re feeling put upon, misunderstood or angry about work or the world we live in, I want to share with you a gift that someone gave me a long time ago. I was burning the midnight oil every day back then, working very hard and wasn’t feeling too appreciated. And something inside me clicked.
Yes, you’re working hard. As you become accountable for your own life and your own future, you become more passionate to succeed. And you will work harder because you want to, because it becomes fun, because you are building or living your dream. Some of you will embrace this challenge. Some of you may feel overwhelmed or look to another to bear a part of your load. But you can’t guarantee anyone else will. You need to operate at your full potential to be successful, and you can do so if you accept the same gift that I offer you today: responsibility.
Being Responsible is a choice. If you are going to serve others and create something truly remarkable, you need to make the choice to accept your responsibility as a fully committed and accountable leader. Each one of us is a leader. And being a leader begins with the willingness to be responsible. Leadership is characterized by responsibility.
Once you accept that challenge and make your choice, there are two ways things may go. First, if all goes well, taking responsibility ends with praise. You make the sale, you get the job, you live the dream. Second, if something goes wrong, taking responsibility means being held accountable for your actions. Someone complains, your manager is unhappy or your career isn’t where you want it to be? Is it someone else’s fault? Maybe to a degree. They played a small part, but you certainly did as well. In fact, your part was probably pretty darn big. After all, you are the only constant player in your life. What can you do to empower yourself today and change things? Be accountable. Be responsible. Stop dwelling on what’s wrong, figure out what’s right and focus your energy and willpower there instead.
It’s not always comfortable being a leader. Sometimes, it’s downright tough when you are called to task. But you need to go for it. You will always have a lot on your plate. Step up, take the risk and be accountable. Many people “accept” responsibility, and that’s okay. It’s reactive, but it’s not leading.
You need to take responsibility. That’s when you become a leader. When you take responsibility for something, you own it. You’re personally invested in the outcome. You own it from beginning to end. You reach out for help to make sure things work out, and you’re not afraid to speak up if you need help.
Be a leader. Take the risk, and make your choice.
Someone gave me this gift a long time ago. Now, it’s my gift to you.