When learning to master martial arts one is encouraged to think about the responsibility and how to use it in all techniques. Depending on energy, force, and power used a martial artist may kill, immobilize or cure a person – the body point to which it is applied is the same. It is a heavy and sole responsibility what and how to use the accumulated martial arts knowledge.
The responsibility is, by all means, one of the most demanding requirements in leadership. “Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions. It’s inevitable, if you’re honourable. Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity” are the words of General Colin Powell on leadership’s responsibility.
On the authority of Confucius in Analects the responsibility for disorder rests on those above: “if the king is not kingly, the vassal will not serve [as the vassal should]; if the father is not fatherly, the son will not be filial.” The same is within organization. In small ones or start-ups it is the energy of the entrepreneur that gives the tone and how responsibility for work accomplished and the success is shared. As the organization grows larger and more complex, the people at the top are governed less by first hand experience, but rather more and more on heavily processed data. They don’t see business flowing in the same way as people down in production or on the sales floor do. Through long training they come to see reality through the same distorting glasses they applied to understand huge amounts of data and information that is streaming toward them. This is because they have to make decisions and take responsibility relying on tangible data. But this filters out emotion, feeling, sentiment, mood, and almost all the nuances of human situations that are part of everyday organizational culture and tacit knowledge that drives business processes. Therefore, responsibility is distorted too or passed form lower levels to higher – stopping mostly at the C-level. This brings all decisions and responsibility to (mostly) one person that has (again mostly) not enough information or clear aspects to decide. What follows is a common practice that taking a responsibility is “searched” or “pushed” down to the lowest level.
“There is one rule for the industrialist: make the best quality goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.” While most executives understand and follow the first two parts of Henry Ford’s ‘one rule’, most ignore the third (and most important) part. It says a lot about responsibility too. C-level is “responsible” for making a profit and not for the people they manage or lead.
Tom Kelly once said, “A wise leader never attempts to exonerate him/herself from the responsibility and never imposes the own value system on others. Good leaders are content to let others take the spotlight, confident in the knowledge that their behind-the-scenes work will make the whole production come together. Good leaders pursue bold strokes and lay out goals that seem difficult or even impossible to achieve. Then they work to make their dreams a reality. Leaders embrace the unexpected.” They lead by example and take responsibility for their actions!