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The Truth About Leadership and Being in Charge

The buck stops here.

This cliché is often associated with leadership. And there’s truth in it. A team’s success or failure, growth or stagnation, can all be traced back to the role of its leaders. True leaders are those folks who are absolutely willing to be responsible and take ownership of what is transpiring around them.

Effective leaders operate from a space of taking this accountability and responsibility to heart. Effective leaders own up to mistakes, give credit where credit is due, hold vision, and take responsibility for implementing plans and initiatives all at the same time. They do this by immersing themselves in the work of their team, even as they set the course that’s required by all.

What effective leaders do NOT do is walk around reminding everyone of their own leadership role. They do not talk about “being in charge”. They do not distance themselves from the required tasks and responsibilities of any initiative. They don’t act as if certain tasks are theirs exclusively, while others are beneath them. Do you understand the distinction I’m making here?

Effective leaders stand in the paradox of their leadership, recognizing that they are simultaneously at the helm and part of the team all at once. True leaders understand that while the buck does, indeed, stop with them, this doesn’t mean that they are separate from the folks around them. Instead, it means that to some degree they must be at least as invested – if not more so – in doing what needs to be done to achieve success.

If you find yourself using “in charge” language – phrases such as “because I said so” or “I’m the boss” or “you’ll do what I said” or “this is the way it is” – you’re really not leading. You’re throwing your weight around and attempting to assert authority without actually earning it. And you’re not being a team player – which is a surefire way to lose the respect of your team (and in turn, their investment in your vision).

Bottom-line: if, as a leader, you want to achieve success, then you’ve got to stop hiding behind your position and your title. Leadership is not about position or title. Leadership is not about what you do, it’s about how you be. And effective leaders are those who BE part of the team, and BE in service of a shared objective. True leaders are never concerned about who’s in charge; they’re concerned about how their team can enact a vision, and how they can support that vision becoming reality.