Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Writings on Democracy, Social Justice, and Religion

A Cardinal Rule Of Successful Leaders

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There is one cardinal rule for all successful leaders. The rule is applicable to all areas of leadership to all types of people.

In the give and take of human interaction, successful leaders always accept responsibility for their actions when they make mistakes.

They don’t blame others. They don’t deny their role in creating the problem. They look at themselves first. They learn from their mistakes. They don’t look for a way out of the problem but seek a way in to resolve it.

Moreover, successful leaders don’t play victim by putting all the blame on others when they are also at fault.

They never play the hapless victim when it comes to problems they have created in their organizations because they understand that the liabilities which come with that behavior can come back to haunt them at a later time.

The victim understands that the victimizer is partly at fault, but when assuming that the latter is completely to blame usually means that unless the victimizer takes responsibility for the problem and works to solve it, the victim will always be powerless to solve the problem himself.

By putting complete blame on those who created their problem, it sometimes absolves the victim from doing something about changing his situation. Never accepting responsibility for creating or solving the problem, they never own up to what they have done to help create the mess and are not inclined to assume the burdens of ever cleaning the mess up.

Some rules of basic leadership training are the following:

If you lead people give them all you’ve got.

If you lead people serve them with integrity.

If you lead people possess the moral courage to make the hard decisions.

If you lead people develop their potential.

If you lead people practice the seventeen most important words, “There is no limit to what you can do if you don’t mind who gets the credit.”

If you break it fix it!

If you mess it up, fess up and then clean it up!”

By taking responsibility for creating the mess, we can honesty seek a solution to fixing the mess.

Let’s face it this country is in one big political mess and political leaders and the people are partly to blame for it. There’s no other way to put it.

Perhaps that’s why Donald Trump blames Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for his problems and the Republicans keep blaming the Democrats for the recent government shutdown and other problems which they have helped to create by their one party, all or nothing, autocratic rule.

They blame their own government by attacking its institutions.

They blame the FBI for persecuting the President.

They blame Robert Mueller for conducting his investigation.

They blame Mexicans, women, blacks, gays, lesbians, transgenders and liberals for all of America’s problems.

They blame the media for being bias or fake.

They blame everybody else for their problems but won’t look in the mirror at themselves and admit how they are disrupting Democracy and creating an open door for our enemies- the barbarians at the gate- now storming our Republic threatening to bring it all down.

They keep skewering the Democrats and some of their own constituents for America’s problems but have not once mentioned the Russian involvement in hacking America’s elections.

Perhaps according to the Transformational Leadership theory of James MacGregor Burns, they are not leaders at all but “power wielders.”

“Leaders in some way satisfy the motives and tap into the values of their followers, whereas power wielders are intent on realizing their own purposes.”

I might take the liberty of citing that perhaps a tactic of political power-wielders is scapegoating and castigating the opposition party for all problems facing the nation even those which the power-wielders have helped to create.

Not once have we heard the President or Republicans say, “My bad.” “We did it.” “We made a mistake.” “We are responsible for this problem.”

I understand this is not politically correct according to the current Republican playbook, but at times leaders must make ethical and moral decisions which supersede party rules for the good of their country.

Vice President Pence speaks to American troops and blames the Democrats for the government shutdown. He never mentions that Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill offered a plan to pay the military during the shutdown.

It’s always the fault of the Democrats.

Republicans made it point to obstruct Barack Obama from any political paydirt during his presidency but now in their investigative committees of Donald Trump appear to stone wall the process entirely. What are they afraid of?

Not once have we heard the President or Republicans accept responsibility for the current gridlock and stalemate in our government.

If Republicans are in the driver’s seat of our Constitutional Democratic Republic why do they keep blaming the folks in the passenger seat or the folks in the back seat of the car for reckless driving? Why blame them for driving our country over the cliff when Republicans are at the wheel?

With control of both houses of Congress and the Oval Office why keep scolding the Democrats for messing things up while denying them a seat at the table or a chance to study a bill that they are supposed to vote on?

Why not conduct bipartisan discussions about how to fix our nation’s problems? Is it because they are too busy playing the blame game, too inebriated with power, too busy wanting to score political party points to get all the credit while discrediting and demeaning their political opponents?

The truth is both political parties have some responsibility for the political mess our country is now in. There is enough blame to go around, but with Republicans having the lion’s share of political power in this country much of that responsibility lies with them at the state and national levels.

Denying responsibility for helping to create problems is not a rule of successful leadership. It is the leadership of smokescreens and illusions; it is magic show leadership which fails to live up to shouldering the weight of political responsibility.

Needed is more fixing and less blaming. Republicans need to put the brakes on the blaming and join the Democrats in finding solutions which will benefit all Americans and make our country stronger and more viable for the 21st Century.

As we “fiddle while Rome burns,”other countries like China are assuming world leadership by establishing alliances with other nations. They are leading the way from the excavation of natural resources to implementing sustainable energy alternatives while we can’t even take responsibility for acknowledging that “climate destruction,” is real.

Irresponsible leadership is a dead end; it is tenuous, effete and wanton, it appears to be without the backbone to correct course and effect positive solutions to our problems.

There is a difference between serving and running our country and qualitative distinctions between politicians and public servants. Running our country can simply mean running it into the ground. Serving our country means putting country over party and private self interest.

Do we need such gamesmanship at this critical hour in our nation when China, India and other countries are beating us to finish line of global power consolidation and leadership of the world into a sustainable future?

The problems of our country will never be solved by leaders refusing to take responsibility for their actions.

“An error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.”

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality.”

Just as there are leadership criteria and tests for men and women to lead in other areas and enterprises of life, there should be stricter rules of leadership to qualify politicians to take leadership roles in our government and leadership of the American people.

Unless a leader takes responsibilities for his errors and mistakes, he or she can never be a trustworthy leader. If he creates a problem but has no mind to accept his role in creating the problem he will not have the moral courage to correct the problem and own up to his mistakes.

“A leader who cannot be tested is a leader who cannot be trusted.”

Successful leaders follow a cardinal rule; they admit their mistakes, shoulder their responsibilities in creating those mistakes and work diligently to correct them so that the organizations, societies and people they serve build trust in their capacities to problem solve which makes their organizations stronger as they lead their people confidently into the future.

John Maxwell has it right in observing

“The next time you experience failure, think about why you failed instead of who is at fault.”



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