Leadership vs. Responsibility

Liz Sumner Progress Leave a Comment

I have actively avoided taking responsibility in my life– both out of fear that I’d do it wrong and also because I was afraid I’d be taking on more work than I wanted to do. There is something about the word Responsibility that conjures up images of the little red hen being left with all the scut work because no one wants to help her. Yuck.

Leadership, on the other hand, inspires me. I’m happy to take the lead, determine what’s needed, organize the effort, collect group input, and make decisions. For some reason in this scenario the team is helpful and everyone contributes.

Something about my notion of leadership implies having competent people around me to help, while my definition of responsible leaves me alone with burdens.

I wonder where this negative attitude comes from? I am the youngest of four children. That could be a factor. There have always been others around me willing and eager to take charge.

I started thinking about this while reading How To Raise Your Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden. He writes: “Men and women who enjoy high self-esteem take an active orientation to life rather an a passive one. They take full responsibility for the attainment of their desires… In short they take responsibility for their own existence.”

This I can embrace. I take responsibility for myself. I don’t blame others when something goes wrong. I don’t expect anyone to rescue me. But I have lived a smaller life than I might have out of fear of taking on what seems like extra responsibility– for other people, for outcomes, for bottom lines.

I am not responsible for my clients’ success or lack thereof. I do take the lead to help them uncover just how amazing and powerful they are. It is my role to serve as a guide, someone who sees options and alternative perspectives. Someone to hold space for their creative vision. Someone to listen and reflect as opposed to drive and direct. 

How might I change my belief that responsibility is to be dodged? My idea of leadership is energizing. I want to embrace it wholeheartedly. Where can I substitute leadership for responsibility? I am curious to see what comes up.

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