in Leadership

Leaders Cannot Be Blamers: 3 Things

The true test of a leader is when things don’t go as planned. Worst yet, when things fail.

In an organizational context, I have seen so many leaders who drive the project/initiative right from the beginning – yet when the project fails, they blame others. They blame senior management, the organization culture, their own team members and sometimes even the customers. It tells me something – if you decide that you want to blame “others”, you will invariably find those “others”. That is an easy choice, and the one that puts everyone down.

When leaders indulge into the blame game, they lose respect because they throw a negative vibe around. This vibe is powerful (and sometimes even viral), because it comes from someone who is supposed to be a leader. It spreads fast, harms reputation of leader and culture of the organization on a longer run.

If you are a leader at any level, here are three things worth noting:

  • Blaming is easy but taking responsibility, learning from mistakes and implementing those lessons to improve constantly is difficult. It is these difficult things that makes a real leader. Similarly, for an organization, building a culture where people are not afraid of taking responsibility is critical.
  • Leaders need to watch and choose their words. Every conversation with others is an opportunity to make a difference. When you talk negative, focus too much on problems and blame others, you are missing the opportunity.
  • Leadership is about using “we” language more than “I versus them”, and that kind of leadership owns the failures as much as they own their successes. It is about celebrating the contributions from each team member when team succeeds, and take collective ownership of failures, learn from them and improve. It is also about knowing when to step up and take the lead, versus when to step down and let people perform.

Bottom line:

Leadership is not just about enjoying the fruits of success. It comes with a fair share of failures as well. We cannot be the leaders who blame others.

Join in the conversation:

Have you seen leaders who constantly blame others? How should an organization deal with such leaders?

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Have a great start into the week!

12 Comments

  1. I am always puzzled when something is not working as it should, I hear people’s questions probe more to see who to blame rather than find a way to fix what is not working! The instinct is uncanny. Great post Tanmay.

    • @Thabo – Your support to this blog is totally appreciated. Thanks for the comment.
      I feel that blaming someone is an intrinsic human behavior, which is why a lot of people do it without realizing the impact of their words/actions on others. There are ways to share positive/negative feedback with people, but outright blaming just kills the team spirit.

      Best,
      Tanmay

  2. Superb post, great thoughts Tanmay!! I have experienced that if you start saying “We as a team have failed”, rather than pointing fingers, very soon you can visualize the team spirit coming up.

    • @Vipul – Thanks for the comment and glad you liked the thoughts. Finger pointing is easy, which is why a lot of people have a natural tendency to blame. Failures are important learning opportunities – if leaders at all levels understand the importance of finding root cause, rather than someone to blame.

      Best,
      Tanmay

  3. I feel leaders who blame other for failures either does not sustain in good organization or they end up creating blaming culture in the organization. The second is more common unless the organization is lead by very strong leadership. I wish organizations have checks in place to detect such leaders and fix them.

    • @Saket – You are spot on. If the top leadership is committed to build the right culture, they would not tolerate blaming leaders. If they do, they end up creating a culture where people can escape away from their failures by blaming everything else (except themselves).

      Best,
      Tanmay

  4. Tanmay, very well said! In our sessions with management teams, we often discuss what we call the “13 fatal errors managers make”. Number one in that list is failure to accept personal accountability. Managers who don’t accept personal accountability encourage the same amongst their people. Soon enough you have an atmosphere atmosphere of self-defeatism and finger pointing.

    • @Andy – That is so true. Being accountable and not blaming others start from the top management in an organization, and people take cues from how top leaders behave. Organization’s top stakeholders have a choice of encouraging, tolerating or curbing the blamers – and that choice plays an important role in building a culture.

      Thanks for the comment and glad you liked the post! :)

      Best,
      Tanmay

  5. like one DOHA of kabir
    “BUR JO DEKHAN MAIN CHALA BURA NA MILYA KOI
    JO DIL KHOJA AAPNA MUJSE BURA NA KOI”

    • @Devang – Brilliant! Thanks for sharing that insight, which goes well with the theme of the post!

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