You Will Get Blamed, Even if …

By | March 25, 2018

[March 25, 2018] As a leader you will get blamed for bad things happening, even if it is not your fault. A few days ago United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said in a speech to a business group that the airline had badly handled a number of incidents on its flights.1 From a passenger being dragged off a flight to dogs dying, these incidents show that leaders must be prepared to handle bad situations that are not of their own making.

Munoz said that the airline is learning from its mistakes. He’s right about this. Why? Because to be successful in leadership you have to establish trust; trust that people give you when they place themselves and property in your care. When an event occurs that you have no control over, it stills effects those who rely upon you and thus the leader remains responsible.

Good leaders are able to predict and prepare for situations that are outside their control. This means thinking ahead, providing resources and training for those who work for you and establishing standards of performance. If a leader cannot identify potential problem areas, then that leader is not worth much in the scheme of things. They will also not last long as an effective leader.

Leaders must be adept at ensuring everyone is working toward the same goals but they also must educate others how to act appropriately when they get blamed, rightly or wrongly, for things outside their control. Those leaders are the coaches of their team, whether it be three people or three thousand folks on their team.

It does no one any good when a leader deflects blame, points the finger at others, gives excuses for any failure, or tries to deny there is even a problem. This is not unlike the advice I used to give when I was a military Flag officer, “Some people will love you for who you are and some people will hate you for who you are.

Leaders must have a thick skin that protects them against the incessant criticism that is certain to follow a bad incident. They must rise above it, ensure the right thing is done to repair any damage, and then move on with those lessons remembered so the leader is ready to handle any circumstance; even if it’s not their fault.


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.

13 thoughts on “You Will Get Blamed, Even if …

  1. Bryan Lee

    It took me personally a long time to learn this. I now teach young people the fact that life is not fair, nor does it owe you anything. I find that those who work when in school – before going off to college – can more easily relate to this.

    1. Andrew Dooley

      I’m glad the word is getting out to our young folks.

    2. Dennis Mathes

      … and I thought I was the only one who did this. Thanks Bryan.

  2. Martin Shiell

    In the scheme of things that make leaders better, I suggest that the simple understanding that you will be blamed for things unfairly makes, ultimately, for a better leader. They are more resilient and tougher in the long run. No sissy leaders need apply. Ha!

    1. Tony B. Custer

      I agree. I will also add that the discredited ideology in early childhood learning that increasing the self-confidence of children has actually backfired and made them into little narcissists.

  3. Edward Kennedy III

    In war, the final penalty for failure is often death or serious injury to yourself or to your men. Blame is the refuge of the morally weak. I have seen many officers fail on this very issue because they were so resistant to the unfairness of being blamed that they were no longer able to properly focus on their job. The results I saw were tragic.

  4. Jonathan B.

    THis idea goes to the core of the human condition and how people find solutions to even the most unfair, unreasonable situation. I guess that’s why we call it “leadership.”

  5. Yusaf from Texas

    Interesting concept and explains why things didn’t always go my way even when I was prepared (or thought I was prepared). Speaking with a number of my military friends, they seem to have a good grasp on this idea. In the business world, where customer service is important, it is often understood you will be blamed for anything.

  6. Max Foster

    This is something that young folks today simply don’t get. When I tell my young friends that one thing I learned the hard way in life was that I would get blamed for things that were not my fault, it didn’t bother me. It didn’t bother me because I was prepared. Young people will automatically say, “that’s unfair.” My comeback? Life’s not fair. Be prepared.

  7. Army Captain

    So true … and yet something junior leaders don’t get.

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