Leadership is not merely showing followers how they should act. Leadership is accepting blame for when the people who you've led fall short. The term "responsibility" is a double-edge sword. When a leader accepts responsibility for something, he is saying that, while he will take some credit if the thing goes well, he will also take much of the blame if its fails. Good leaders will give thought to how they can demonstrate responsibility to those looking up to them.
The best way that a leader can show that she believes responsibility is important is by taking as much of responsibility as she can. Taking responsible, unlike taking credit, is an active process. While a person can take credit only after something has been accomplished, after a person has taken responsibility, she must see that responsibility through until completion. Good leaders are willing to take responsibility frequently and publicly. This demonstrates a model of accountability for subordinates.
Part of the difficultly of accepting responsibility as a leader is that a leader cannot always control the outcome of an event. After a leader has accepted responsibility for something, the thing may go poorly for reasons beyond his control. Yet, even though the negative outcome may not be his fault, it is part of his job as a responsible leader to accept the blame for it. Part of being responsible is accepting that the outcome will not always be fair.
A leader who takes responsibility for something must also take on the role of chief decision maker. While a person can, technically, accept responsibility for the future outcome of an event and then remain hands-off by letting the chips fall where they may, a good leader will be proactive in steering the ship. A good leader actively demonstrates responsibility by getting deeply involved in what he has taken responsibility for.
Advantages to Responsibility
Cultivating a culture of responsibility in an organization through effective leadership has several advantages. Responsibility breeds honesty and transparency. If people know that they will be held accountable for their actions and that accepting this accountability is a value that the organization's leadership respects, they will be more forthright about their mistakes. Similarly, a culture of responsibility can foster greater productivity, as people feel more closely tied to the fruits of their labor.