LA 076: Where Is That Buck When You Need One?
President Harry S. Truman had a famous sign on his desk that read: "The Buck Stops Here." A clear indicator that he accepted accountability for all the decisions of his administration. There are leaders like Truman in politics and organisations today, though not many. Accountability starts with honesty. Being able to set aside personal pride and admit your own mistakes and being honest first with yourself, and then to all of those you serve as a leader. It shows that you can be trusted as a leader and that even you can be fallible. I'm sorry if this is going to hurt your pride a little, but you are not perfect in everything you say and do. It's OK, I'm not either, and nor is anybody else. That doesn't mean that we hide behind the excuse that "I'm not perfect" but it does mean being open to correction and improvement in a very public way. I was running one of our Golf Leadership programmes for a local company owned and run by a very traditional, senior Asian businessman known by his initials "CS". He happened to be teamed up with his female PA who had, until this day, never picked up a golf club. He was an old hand at the game with a very respectable handicap. They were on the 5th and final tee for our game. A narrow fairway with tress on the left, water on the right and the green and hole just 220m in a dead straight line. It was a warm day with cloud cover and little wind. The PA took her spot at the tee, put everything she had learned into practice from the morning and calmly sent the ball flying, straight as an arrow to land 160m in the middle of the fairway. It was a beautiful thing to watch for a newcomer and she was thrilled. The boss took his place, a grudging nod of appreciation to his PA and lined up for his shot. He'd skipped out on much of the morning session for "more vital and important things than training" and hooked his drive into the trees. A few choice dialect cusses and a spare ball magically appears on the tee. He lines up the shot, tests the weight of his custom clubs, a few practice swings and shuffles his feet and then swings with a beautiful, magnificent example of how to slice the ball into the water. The faintest snort behind him, or was it a giggle? And the custom club comes crunching onto the big green ball beneath our feet accompanied by a stream of cusses. The boss collects himself, turns to my camera guy and demands the footage be erased. Money is proffered and refused. Threats are offered and similar rebuffed. A while later I persuade the CS to allow us to show the video to all the team. He was so fearful of losing face in front of his staff and concerned that they would now know that he could lose his temper quite so violently. I assured CS this was not going to be a moment of revelation to his staff. Rather, it was a moment of relief for them. Now, nobody had to tell him about the issue and risk that very temper. We showed the video to the team and a lengthy discussion followed beginning with CS offering the whole team an apology for his behaviour and a request for their support going forward. When we are honest with ourselves and with others, we are taking responsibility for our behaviours and actions and then we can hold ourselves accountable for the results. 2. Accountable leaders are honest and voluntarily say "I'm sorry" when something goes wrong and they bear some or all the responsibility for the wrongdoing. When the wrongdoing is by someone who works for them, accountable leaders accept their part in their responsibility for the decisions or instructions that may have been a party to the wronghappening. Too often we hear leaders shifting the focus of attention for the blame onto someone, or something else. Whether it's a politician "spinning" bad news and shifting the blame to anyone who is less able to defend themself, or the CEO of a multi-national desperately trying to escape responsibility for a major disaster. "This was not our accident …" said Tony Hayward, Chief Executive of BP