Shouldering Responsibility

By | January 14, 2019

[January 14, 2019]  About two decades ago, psychologists hit upon a discovery that stopped them in their tracks.  They had proposed that the more responsibility people possess, the more stress they have and thus less satisfaction in their life.  It turns out, counterintuitive to their way of thinking, that the tough job of shouldering responsibility is directly related to “improved” life satisfaction.

“Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.” – Tony Robbins, American life coach

Leaders have known this since humans developed social structures to improve their meager existence.  Whether it’s a family, team, company, church, or community, the ability of a few folks to take on the duty to help others, has been the core attribute of successful leadership.

I’m fond of writing in my leadership blog that the best leaders have two, intertwined responsibilities.  They must be capable of accomplishing their mission (e.g., task, obligation) and taking care of those around them (e.g., family, business).   Everything else is just chaff to be blown in the winds of our efforts.

In 2003, as my Engineer unit prepared for its deployment to combat in central Iraq, we all were concerned about how we would perform.  Would we run away and be labeled cowards?  Would we disgrace our teammates by failing to do our jobs or take care of our men?  Chaplain Bishop, a great man in all respects, gave us his wisdom.  He said that if we were to concentrate our ability to be good moral men and responsible for our soldiers, everything else would work out and we would achieve something great.

There can be no doubt that responsibility comes with its share of stress; even the most inexperienced leader knows this and is frightened often by the unknown.  But, with courage and strong values, any leader will be capable of remaining focused on the tasks at hand.  Shouldering responsibility becomes second nature to those willing to hold onto it; driving great satisfaction and personal growth from it.

Since that time, I remembered Chaplain Bishop and our many conversations on morality, bravery on the battlefield, patriotism, and shooting straight.  Stay on the righteous path and nothing can keep you from your appointed rounds.  Friedrich Nietzsche wrote long ago that he “who has a ‘why’ to live can bear almost any ‘how.’

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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.

25 thoughts on “Shouldering Responsibility

  1. Tracey Brockman

    Ahhhh, good morning all. While I was sipping my morning coffee, I was also carefully reading today’s little gem of an article. I always start my day this way. This blog gives me something to think about as I go through my daily work. This being Monday, it helps me with those in my work team who also get to hear from me (using the same topic). Thanks Gen. Satterfield for another fine day.

    1. Kenny Foster

      And I just returned from my walk with my dog. We are now sitting back as the sun rising over the horizon and I prepared for another day at work. Thanks.

    1. Dale Paul Fox

      I, too, liked the article. Here is one of his comments that I liked. “Responsibility makes a complete man. Our society regards a man who fails in his responsibilities as not man enough. There are however no agencies that assigns men their life’s responsibility; being nature conferred and each man to discover and live up to his. Thus, the sense of responsibility has become men’s sixth sense.”

    2. Drew Dill

      Men really have heavy tasks to perform you may conclude; and yes they do. Little wonder why some have abandoned theirs, failing to give it their shoulders. But I’ve often wondered on what else those folks have given their strength to.

  2. Jerry C. Jones

    Of course our experience shows that the power which comes with responsibility can be abused. We need to be aware of this and that is why being around honest and open people can help keep the abuse in check.

  3. Mike Baker

    Take on a responsibility, and you bless your community – anything from being on a residents’ association (and sitting through all those meetings) or doing the coffee after Sunday Mass, to being a CEO, to being anything that requires you to lead others.

  4. Yusaf from Texas

    Great article today. This is especially true for our families.

  5. Eva Easterbrook

    My point today is that the idea of “shouldering” responsibility is a bit misleading and perhaps Gen. Satterfield might consider changing the title (maybe). The idea to shoulder something implies you are burdened by it and that it requires great effort. This is, however, not always the case and in fact can be exactly the opposite. Shouldering responsibiility means to put it on our shoulders and bear the weight of those things we must do and take care of others. But it also means we are strong, people appreciate our efforts, and we can, thus, draw satisfaction from it.

  6. Albert Ayer

    A good article and human-interest story that everyone might like to read that addresses this very issue on how a young man discovered that ‘shouldering responsibility’ actually made him a better man.
    “Shouldering Responsibility: Aaron Ockenfels (’18) Remembers Experience of Hurricane Irma”
    https://www.avemaria.edu/senior-spotlight-2018-aaron-ockenfels/

    1. Lynn Pitts

      Yes, I enjoyed the article. The young man discovered also how the people pulled together to help out in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. He learned that providing some leadership meant he was not just a better person in the long run but also enjoyed it as well, despite the hard physical labor.

  7. Gil Johnson

    Max, below, quoted from the Bible and appropriately so. Here is another quote that helps demonstrate the historical significance of Gen. Satterfield’s point that we can only be satisfied with our lives by being responsible.
    “Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith.” (1 Timothy 5:8)

  8. Max Foster

    “FATHERS, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) We find ‘responsibility’ mentioned even in the Bible and I’m sure all religious texts speak of the same. Responsibility is not a new idea, nor is it new that only by accepting it can we be who we are and happy.

    1. Len Jakosky

      Excellent point, Max and thanks for another round of great comments.

  9. Army Captain

    Looks like psychologists are slow to realize what most of us have known all along.

    1. Andrew Dooley

      HAHAHAHAHA It is indeed amazing what our “scientists” have yet to discover.

    2. Scotty Bush

      I’m happy they finally ‘discovered’ it. 🙂 🙂 🙂

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