“The buck stops here” is a phrase that was popularized by President Harry Truman, who kept a sign with that phrase on his desk at the White House. The phrase refers to the fact that the President has to make the decisions and accept the ultimate responsibility for those decisions.
Senior executive leaders take this characteristic to a new level. Senior executive leaders are responsible to:
- Establish an easy to understand Strategy and Vision and developmental process.
- Ensure successful employee, staff, and team performance.
- Take care of employees [training, health issues, managing expectations].
- Resource the organization properly, especially for the future, long term.
- Provide continuous guidance and information flow.
- Lead the organization in transitions (future blog post)
- Identify and resolve difficult problems, in particular systemic problems.
- Handle major, unexpected events.
- Oversee the training, mentoring, and experience of other senior executive leaders.
- Encourage risk taking and freedom of ideas.
Authority to accomplish tasks and direct resources increases as leaders move up in an organization. The mark of the best senior leader executive is one that pushes authority down to those in the organization, empowering employees, while maintaining responsibility for their actions at the top.
There will always be “leaders” who claim that the complexity of their organizations and the list of missions and numbers of employees are so great, that it is impossible to be fully responsible. This attitude is defective and is not an example of great leadership.
Senior executive leaders seize responsibility when there are problems and things go wrong. These leaders do not blame others for mission failures; they don’t “pass the buck”. In addition, they do not look for credit when things go right, giving credit to other factors and to the employees in the organization.
The buck stops at the senior executive leader level. It should be embraced.