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Ladder Up

The following is an excerpt from Dare To Serve:

In developing dare to serve leaders, I have witnessed another stumbling block – the absence of personal responsibility. If one believes they have been a victim in this life or if they have a propensity to blame others for their problems, they will struggle to serve others well. It’s as if “others” are not even on their radar.

A feature of a man’s maturity is responsibility towards other people…
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

You have witnessed this dichotomy in real life. Two children grow up in the home of a dead-beat parent. One child vows to change the course of their life, and they become an effective business and community leader with a healthy marriage and well-adjusted children.

Alternatively, the second child repeats history, becoming another dead-beat parent. What is the difference between the two people? Personal responsibility for their circumstances. Thinking about others, not just themselves.

This pattern also exists among leaders. Some take ownership of their leadership and work to become better for the benefit of others. Some never accept responsibility, and remain stuck in the spotlight.

Lack of personal responsibility in a leader is just another form of self-absorption. The “victim” leader revels in their difficulties and blames the rest of mankind for their troubles. By definition, this thinking blinds them to the fact that the people they serve also have troubles. But the leader cannot serve others well, until they assume personal responsibility for improving themselves and have empathy for others.

And so it is with Dare-to-Serve Leadership. To serve others well, you must look in the mirror – to see your own shortcomings and make the requisite changes in yourself. It is your personal responsibility to do so. You will have no capacity to serve others unless you can take responsibility for your own self.

Anne Frank said, “The final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”

My dad said it this way: “After the age of eighteen, you are responsible for your own therapy charges.”

Dare-to-Serve Leaders accept personal responsibility to improve themselves. They look in the mirror daily. They come to understand their own imperfections, and this builds empathy for others.

There is a good tool for keeping yourself honest on this point. It is called the Accountability Ladder, and it was developed by the consulting firm Senn Delaney. It is a structured method for shifting your mindset from that of an unaware victim to a person accepting full responsibility for the next steps.

The way it works?  You start at the bottom of the “ladder” and talk yourself out of blame/victim status. Working your way up the ladder you eventually reach full ownership of the situation at hand. (You can see a picture of the accountability ladder and an example of how to use it on pages 146-147 of Dare to Serve.)

A Dare-to-Serve Leader can’t serve others until they have looked at themselves in the mirror, owned their circumstances, and accepted personal responsibility for pursuing solutions or opportunities.

A leader without personal responsibility remains stuck in the spotlight and fails to serve others well.

Will you be a different kind of leader and serve well?


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