Responsibility Answers: What Does Responsibility Have to Do with Leadership?


I often get asked what responsibility has to do with leadership.

Well, my answer is everything.

If you understand The Responsibility Process®, then you’re familiar with the idea that below the line, we’re powerless and a victim. Unless you’re leading yourself and others to be pitiful, there’s not much chance for leadership below the line.

Above the line, we’re free, powerful and at choice. Above the line, we have the ability to respond. I think that’s leadership.

I was watching a movie last night called Core. It had some reasonably good actors and acting by them – but the movie as a whole wasn’t very good.

At one point, a military man is speaking to a military woman who is assuming command. She was quite intelligent, a former space shuttle pilot, and had been wildly successful in all of her endeavors.

He said to her, “Leadership is not about ability, leadership is about responsibility. Your leadership hasn’t been tested until you’re put in a failure situation.” I really liked that. I thought that was pretty cool.

Leadership is a Dynamic

I believe that leadership is a dynamic. It’s not behaviors. It’s not characteristics. It’s a dynamic. That dynamic is created when two things happen, very simply.

One is when a human being assumes ownership for some problem, challenge, goal, initiative, project, gap in the universe, cause that somebody else isn’t doing anything about, journey, project, something. So that’s where leadership starts. Leadership starts by you and me and others assuming ownership for something, anything.

Then when the task we’ve assumed ownership for is bigger than we are, we attract followers, we attract others to us to help. That’s it. That’s leadership.

So leadership is a byproduct of being in pursuit of greatness. Leadership is being in pursuit of some kind of a goal, adventure, change, challenge, objective.

Lead by inspiring

Hopefully, you’re inspiring others to come along, as opposed to cajoling or intimidating others to come along.

In this way, leadership is not what I would call main effect. Leadership is a byproduct. Leadership is a consequence.

We as a society fell in love with leadership so much, we’ve turned leadership into the thing. We believe that we can create leaders, and teach leadership behavior, and leadership skills. To a certain extent, we do that so that we can have better managers, but I’m convinced that leadership is not so much about the position, as it is about putting yourself in motion towards something. That’s one of the reasons that our primary slogan at The Responsibility Company is: Lead yourself first.

The world focuses us on trying to get other people to do stuff, and if we can do that, we call ourselves a leader. My experience is that if you’re leading yourself first towards some great pursuit and it’s bigger than you, then you get your beliefs in alignment, and you get your values in alignment and you get in a relatively authentic place and a place of integrity – then you shouldn’t be surprised at all to see people falling in next to you and wanting to help.

So I believe that about somewhere between 95 and 99.9% of all leadership is self-leadership. That is all true leadership.

A Leadership Challenge

So here’s something you can do today. Challenge yourself to some kind of greatness.

That’s all. It doesn’t have to be huge greatness. It can be small greatness.

But challenge yourself to step up to something. Challenge yourself to not wait to be given the authority. Challenge yourself to assume responsibility for some gap in the universe that you’re called to do something about and then go. Don’t be surprised if you find people following you.

Send your questions to I look forward to hearing from you.

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Posted in Answers, Media
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