Leaders Take Responsibility for their Decisions

By | June 11, 2014

[June 11, 2014] During Basic Combat Training in the U.S. Army, I learned quickly that giving an excuse for not doing my job or for failing to take responsibility for something for a decision that was mine, had the “effective range of zero.” Army Drill Sergeants took nothing for granted and took no excuses from us trainees and they were rather blunt about it. As I recollect, I thought they were pricks … and other names that I cannot write here.

“Take responsibility for your last bad decision, and then let it go. Don’t blame others or make excuses for yourself.” – Deepak Chopra

Responsibility-400All of us trainees learned quickly to take responsibility for whatever we did and give no excuse for not doing something right. Seems to me that the Drill Sergeants would tolerate failure over excuses for failure1. If we blamed someone else for our failure, look out, life was not so good.

Leadership means to take responsibility for our decisions. Taking responsibility is also a key characteristic of senior executive leaders. I addressed this trait in an earlier post and noted that to take responsibility was inextricably linked to honesty (link here). A leader who cannot take responsibility cannot be trusted, will quickly lose credibility, and find it difficult to get things done when so perceived.

There is a trend lately for our most senior politicians not to take responsibility for their decisions. Of course, this is unfortunate because we will start to lose confidence in them. President Harry Truman is famous for saying “the buck stops here.” He gave no quarter for excuses and accepted none.

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[1] It didn’t take long for us trainees to figure out real fast that it was simply better to accept blame for failure and keep our mouths shut than to withstand the wrath of an outraged Drill Sergeant. And, yes, they did get emotional about it.

[Note) Some good websites on “taking responsibility” for your actions:






Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.