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You can delegate your authority but NOT your responsibility

August 4, 2010 1 comment

I recently read the blog Be the boss, but don’t be a jerk, by Wally Bock which linked me to a blog by George Cloutier called, Your Company is not a Democracy. These two have some very different ideas on leadership and how decisions are made. The thing I think it is most important for the new leader to realize is it is ALWAYS your decision as a leader\boss\supervisor and you are always responsible for the outcome.

Lets talk about the idea of the benevolent dictator, Cloutier advocates being feared and respected, and goes on to say that your word must be final. Fear is a bit extreme but you must be respected and indeed your word is final because ultimately the responsibility is yours. The employees must know when it is time for debate and when you have made your final decision. Debate must stop and progress made in the direction you as the boss chose. This is the most obvious form of taking responsibility, there is no wiggle room you dictated and your team executed.

The other extreme is the leader who lets employees come to a consensus and then backs them 100%. These leaders practice delegation of authority and some leaders may get the crazy idea that this somehow this relieves them of their responsibility. If the results are good, your team takes the praise and you must let them. If things come back bad, it was your decision and you must bear the consequences. Using phrases like, “it wasn’t my idea” or “I did not know the details” highlights you as a weak leader. The fact is it was still your decision, you chose to let the team choose and you will answer for the decision. If you are the owner, it means your bottom line is short, if you work for a company it means you answer to your boss.

The argument between the dictators and the delegation crowd will wage on in theory, but you will learn through success and failure there is a place and time for both, a subject for another day. Through it all remember that either way you are responsible. Take responsibility for decisions and the team will ultimately respect you, and work harder for you. If you constantly try to shift responsibility for decisions to others both your boss and your team will know, you will soon be out of business or out of a job.

Categories: Responsibility