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  • Writer's pictureShandy Welch

"Blame" Undermines Leadership

As Andy Stanley reminds us, the one constant in every encounter, barrier, and relationship is you. How you approach, perceive, internalize, and respond will determine the quality of your life.

It is interesting to notice the need, and instinct, to find blame. To lessen the feeling of failure by sharing it with, or directing it to, another. Think about the last disagreement, disappointment, or challenge you had. What was your very first thought? Most likely something like: “What were THEY thinking?”, “How could SHE let that happen?”, “What is wrong with HIM?” “One would assume…”

We have an inherent need to protect ourselves, which is normal, but if we dwell in that space excessively, it becomes toxic, counterproductive, and demoralizing. Quickly, the project becomes secondary and our energy is spent judging and blaming instead of empathizing, strategizing, and supporting others.

This behavior is rooted in status-seeking, insecurity, and fear, which leads to stagnant complacency and team dysfunction.

Blame relinquishes control to the other person, robbing us of our autonomy and free will to create, or recreate, a future that brings success, happiness, and transformation.

While evading responsibility may feel preferable at the moment, it does have detrimental effects on the culture of your organization. Many years ago I was taught the phrase, “managing up,” which in this context refers to trust and cohesion. 

It speaks to the desire to resist undermining managers to save face. Don’t blame the administration for a bad outcome, but rather take personal responsibility and elicit and promote the belief that everyone is working towards the same goal, despite occasional mistakes. Learn the strategies of others in an attempt to align with their goals and assume best intent. 

Move away from, “Yes, I agree that was a ridiculous mandate from admin. Of course, this project failed, they have no idea what we do here.” 

Move towards, “I recognize your concerns and I am disappointed with the results, but I trust our admin team and I am sure this decision was much more complicated than we appreciate. I also believe our team has the resources and wisdom to change course and find success.”

As this Forbes article so beautifully notes, “Innocence feels good. It saves face and avoids guilt. But there's a dark side to this kind of innocence: If you embrace victimhood, then you must also embrace powerlessness.”

Deflecting responsibility is not great leadership. It is solely about self-preservation and ego. When given the responsibility to lead, it means that you avoid being tempted by the easy way out, opting instead for shedding light on ways to redirect energy to what can be controlled, and what part you and your team can play in the pursuit of success.

Spend your energy creating positive change and not on finding ways to blame others.

Be mindful of your proclivity to want to blame others or a circumstance instead of using it as information that leverages your talents and unique insights to shift course.

Your talent lies in strategizing, prioritizing, and big-picture thinking. While there will always be surprises and barriers, that is what makes leadership fun. Don’t be shocked or disappointed, become curious and inspired to take on the challenge.

Leadership isn’t about you. It is about your ability to see the possibility that others can not and lead your team to a more positive future.

My Challenge to You:

  • Bring awareness as to where blame shows up. Simply creating consciousness around these moments will, in itself, shift your mindset.

  • Before reacting, either mentally or verbally, pause and ask yourself, “Am I deflecting responsibility or managing up?”

  • If everyone responded the way you do, would your company be better off?

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