[April 30, 2017] Winston Churchill once said that “the price of greatness is responsibility.” Of course it is. Not only do great leaders accept responsibility, they actively seek it out and are nourished by the challenges that a position of accountability and dependability brings.
Leadership also means possessing the skills to fix specific responsibilities on others. Note that this may seem a contradiction from my past writings where I wrote that leaders always retain responsibility and pass down authority to get the job done. But I use the term “responsibility” here in a broad sense (one of my readers kindly suggests I use it ‘sloppily’). I think you get my meaning.
“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past but by the responsibility for our future.” – George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright, critic, and polemicist
The concept of responsibility is fraught with a mixture of meanings and near meanings. Bernard Shaw put his finger on the crux of it when he noted that being responsible implies some future state, not a condition of the past as many seem to believe. And that is what separates the good from the great; when a leader understands that looking ahead is where being responsible is most concerned.
Churchill uttered his famous quote during the darkest days of Britain during the German Luftwaffe bombing of major cities in World War II.1 But he knew that the people of Britain and the free world depended upon his nation’s ability to survive and take the fight to the Nazi empire.
Like the many great leaders before him, he was able to bring people together, to establish clear roles and responsibilities, and set objectives by getting others to agree with him. He never micromanaged his staffs, but he was adamant in his praise for all those who fought against fascism, and gave his people both hope and desire to live another day.
Like so many before him, Churchill understood that the first responsibility of a leader is to establish responsibility, then fix it; for in it comes the only true way to independence.
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- The Blitz, as it was known, created the greatest threat to Britain’s fight against Nazi Germany as it was the predecessor to a full scale invasion of the homeland.