You’ve likely heard it said, “Leadership is all about influence.” I have always agreed with this statement, and have said it myself countless times! I have also said, “Everybody is a leader.” I truly believe that. Think about it – everybody, no matter who they are, influences other people. Whether it’s a CEO with a big title, an administrative assistant, a server at a restaurant, or a stay-at-home mom – everyone in every area of life exhibits some level of influence on others.
Because of this universal truth, I believe that practicing leadership excellence is the ultimate strategy for achieving greater personal and professional success. By practicing proven principles to improve your leadership and thus your influence, you can’t help but benefit in all areas of life! That’s why I strongly agree with what Ron Ashkenas wrote in a recent article posted on the Harvard Business Review blog titled Take Accountability for Your Own Success.
Ashkenas notes, “Human beings have an almost infinite capacity to rationalize failure.” We’re all very good at playing the blame game. If we don’t succeed, it’s because of the failings of someone else or circumstances out of our control. Our natural tendency to pass the buck is understandable – nobody likes to take the blame or pay the price for a mistake.
When it comes to failure or lack of progress in an organization, the finger of blame is almost always pointed to the person or persons at the top. The refrain so often heard as an excuse when an organization is not making progress or not finishing projects is “because senior management isn’t providing sufficient direction,” or “senior management isn’t doing anything about it.” Ashkenas says that the most recurring comment he hears from his readers is, “that any changes on this particular issue (no matter what it is) have to start at the top; that without senior demands, support, and action, everyone else is powerless and no real improvement can occur.”
Ashkenas acknowledges that there is some truth to this argument, after all, employees within most hierarchical organizations take almost all of their cues from senior leaders, and senior leaders do need to be assertive and lead by example. However, these organizations shouldn’t be dictatorships.
“The reality is that the most effective organizations engage in continual (and sometimes brutally candid) dialogue — across levels, functions, and with customers and suppliers. For organizations to be successful, dozens, hundreds, and thousands of people have to be engaged and aligned around common goals and directions. That doesn’t mean that everyone needs to move in lockstep, but it does mean that everyone needs to take accountability, to see themselves as part of the solution on the field rather than a distant observer in the stands.”
If you can learn to see your role in your organization as one of a leader – an influencer – and as “part of the solution” then you will naturally begin to accept more accountability for any failures, reduced effectiveness or lack of progress.
“If you want to be part of a successful organization, you need to be part of the dialogue — to share your views, influence others, and make a difference.”
You are a leader. Be accountable for the influence you can have on those around you and especially on your organization!
Do you have an example of a time when you acted as a leader (no matter your title!) and positively influenced your organization? Join the conversation by commenting below.