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Leadership: The Rest Of The Story

Most people instinctively know what leadership is. In all of the surveys that have been done in this area people usually define leadership as either "responsibility" or "accountability."

There is a huge difference between these two terms.

In my career, I moved from a business where I was the "responsible one" to a business where I was to be "accountable." I had been given an irresistible jump I simply could not put aside. However, the shock was so great I felt I had landed on a different planet. The business was big and anyone would have been proud to be in my position. But it was a culture shock for me. I felt like a country bumpkin in a big city.

I brushed up the knowledge I had picked up in the business school. I tried my best to put into practice all the skills I'd learnt along the way. I took up the situation as a challenge. But after six months I was exhausted and went back to my boss to admit defeat. I could take it no more and wanted to return to where I was comfortable. He would not listen to any of it. he politely refused my resignation.

Then the realisation struck me like a flash of lightning.

I was managing things instead of people.

I was stuck in the grooves of my previous portfolio where I was responsible for doing the work. In fact, I was still doing much of the 'stuff' in the business and not managing my people to do the 'stuff' they were qualified to do. In other words, I was doing their job at a much bigger salary and I was upsetting some of those who were paid to do it!

As soon as I realized my mistake, I took a U turn. I started developing the capabilities of my people, investing time in them rather than doing all the jobs myself. I must admit, it was much easier to do the things myself than teach others how to do them. Moreover, it was time consuming and the corporate world wants targets to be met at any cost.

But things started to turn around. The secret lay in distinguishing between being responsible and being accountable. When I was doing the job assigned to me, I was responsible for delivering results for that small part of the whole organization. Now that the business had become much bigger, I couldn't do it all any more.

To put it simply, I was now accountable for the performance of my business, and it was time to delegate responsibility to others. So, I handed over the doing part to those who were responsible for doing it. And, I was there to support them, answer their questions, solve their problems and encourage their good work. That is being accountable! It was a tough learning experience for me but enlightening all the same.

The next time you need to understand leadership I would strongly suggest you go to the dictionary and differentiate the terms "accountable" and "responsible."

Submitted by:

Harald Anderson

Harald Anderson is the co-founder of artinspires.com a leading online gallery of Patriotic Military Art. "When Art Inspires, Dreams Become Realities. Military Art




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