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7 Ways to Take Responsibility as a Leader

Looking for ways to take responsibility as a leader? Here are seven ways you can take responsibility up a notch, plus four signs of an irresponsible leader.

By Mara Calvello  •   April 6, 2022  •   7 min read

Think about the best leader you ever had.

Maybe it was a manager at a previous job or a baseball coach you had growing up. 

Chances are, when a leader stands out by  being exceptional or going above and beyond, it’s because they take responsibility in various parts of their life, especially in the workplace. Doing so is incredibly important and can set an individual apart when it’s time for promotions, career growth, or additional compensation.

If you’re looking for ways to become a responsible leader, Fellow has you covered with this complete breakdown.

Why should leaders take responsibility?

Being responsible as a leader means you know how to respond to situations maturely and professionally while also being able to perform and complete the tasks given to you. A responsible leader also has an obligation to commit to a specific ability or comply with certain rules. They never think they’re above certain projects, assignments, or tasks, and they’re always willing to help others when needed.

When a leader consistently takes responsibility for their actions, it shows they’ll be dependable if things get tough and that they know how to show accountability for their actions and behavior. They lead by example, can be counted on in all types of situations and scenarios, and are not afraid to make difficult decisions. 

All of these qualities make a leader everyone wants within their organization and on their team. Some common soft skills a responsible leader may have include:

  • Honesty
  • Long-term perspective on issues
  • Integrity
  • Empathy
  • Open-mindedness
  • Respectfulness

Lead by example

Have organized and thoughtful conversation during your meetings by preparing a collaborative meeting agenda everyone can contribute to! Try a tool like Fellow.

7 ways to take responsibility as a leader

When it’s time to step up your leadership game, implement these seven ways to start taking more responsibility as a leader. 

1 Be involved in projects

No one wants a leader who sits back and watches as their team does all the hard work. A responsible leader rolls up their sleeves and is involved in projects. No matter the size of the project or how long it’ll take to complete, a leader should want to be a part of it to help in any way they can. 

Even if you have a lot on your plate, taking on something small or a task you can finish quickly will show you’re invested, you care about what the team is working on, and you’re available to assist.

2 Take accountability — don’t play the blame game 

A responsible leader is one who takes accountability for their actions in the workplace. Instead of deflecting, this individual chooses to take responsibility or springs into action to fix a problem. They don’t spread blame; they own and address the issue on the table. Without workplace accountability, it’s not easy to take ownership and keep track of various tasks because we aren’t being held responsible. 

Remember, everybody makes mistakes from time to time, and responsible leaders are no exception. They know it’s best to speak of failures in terms of “I” and take responsibility for their team. They won’t be fazed by instances or circumstances centered around failure, and they’ll help their team get through the tough time. 

3 Support your team

Responsible leaders are supportive; they’re known for supporting their team in all different types of scenarios. One of the ways to provide this support is by looking for signs of burnout or overly stressed employees,  then encouraging them to take time off to rest. 

Signs of burnout to watch for are:

  • Feeling tired and drained the majority of the time
  • Experiencing an increased sense of failure or self-doubt
  • Feeling defeated, trapped, or helpless
  • Withdrawing from responsibilities or a loss of interest in work

If you feel like your team members are approaching burnout, being a responsible leader includes making sure they get the rest they need to be their best self at work and outside of the office.

4 Provide adequate resources 

Another way a leader can take responsibility is by making sure their team has the resources they need to get their job done right, whether this means providing proper training on their daily tasks, giving them the tools and software so they can have access to necessary information, or setting them up with mentors and coaches to help them develop new skills.

Whatever the case may be, a key step in taking responsibility is arming the team with everything they need to be successful and productive employees. If you’re not sure the team has adequate resources, consider sending out a survey asking everyone if there’s anything they’re not currently equipped with that they believe could help them be more successful at their job. 

5 Offer solutions 

When a problem reaches a responsible leader, they don’t shrug it off and pass it on to someone else. Instead, they go to the drawing board and offer help or come up with a solution.

To do this, a leader needs to be open minded, consider various strategies, and ask the right questions. Solutions can be big and small, time consuming or relatively quick to bring to fruition—as long as they show up to the discussion ready to find a potential solution, people will notice. 

6 Be respectful of opposing views 

It very seldom happens that everyone on the team agrees on a specific subject matter. However, when this does happen, a leader needs to be respectful of opposing viewpoints. Additionally, it’s helpful to defuse a potentially uncomfortable situation based on opposing views so the conflict doesn’t interfere with performance or cause unwanted tension.

7 Have one-on-ones

A responsible leader knows that all types of meetings are important, but especially the one-on-one.

A one-on-one meeting allows you to ​​connect with each person reporting to you, making it possible to stay in the loop about priorities, team issues, and potential roadblocks. Because these meetings should be recurring, they can also be the place team members ask important and in-depth questions, ask for and provide feedback, and bring up issues they may be having regarding a specific task or project.

These meetings are a place where trust can be built between the leader and their direct report, productivity can be boosted, and positive working relationships can be fostered. Responsible leaders often use software like Fellow to take their one-on-one meetings to the next level.

4 signs of irresponsible leadership 

On the flip side, it’s easy to spot an irresponsible leader. Here are four tell-tale signs of a leader you don’t want on your team. 

1 Blaming others

The blame game is something you can spot from a mile away. When something doesn’t go according to  plan or a deadline is missed, an irresponsible leader may say something like, “I believe person X was working on that, I wasn’t a part of this project” or “This is the first time I’m hearing about this, I wasn’t involved, ask person X”.

An individual who’s constantly blaming others when things go awry will have a hard time building trust with other team members and will likely be overlooked when opportunities for career growth take place.

2 Passing on difficult tasks to other team members

There’s a big difference between delegating tasks and passing on difficult tasks to other team members. One sign that a leader may be irresponsible is when something gets added to their plate that they don’t particularly want to do, or that they find too difficult, they’ll pass it along to someone else.

Oftentimes, a leader was given something a bit more difficult because they can be trusted with it, or it’s something that someone of leader stature needs to handle. Remember that sometimes a task is given to you specifically and shouldn’t be passed on to others.

3 Not meeting or setting deadlines 

Sometimes an irresponsible leader will act like they’re too good for or too busy to meet or set deadlines. However, everyone should be held to the same standards, even leaders. As a leader, think about the repercussions that would be had if other members of your team constantly let deadlines fall through the cracks. It’s likely you wouldn’t stand for it, so it’s best you hold yourself to these same standards. 

4 Distancing themselves from team members

When team members feel like their leader is sitting up in an ivory tower, too good to be disturbed, this behavior comes across as the individual not caring to be part of the team. When a leader distances themselves, isn’t available to take questions or concerns, or comes across as if they’re too busy to be bothered, the team notices.

It’s time to step up to the plate

We all know of a responsible leader, and unfortunately we probably all know of an irresponsible one, too. While nobody’s perfect and sometimes emotions come into play, making a conscious effort to be a responsible leader and team player will set you up for long-term success. A responsible leader is appreciated, looked up to, and necessary to have on all types of teams.

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