Timeout for Leadership-your one-minute leadership idea

The Principal Coaching Clinic #26

Where does “your buck” stop?

On his desk President Harry Truman had a wooden sign which said “The Buck Stops Here.”  I am sure we have all heard about it.  My question for you today is where does your buck stop? (It may be somewhat of an awkward question, but I think you understand it.)

Any good leader knows that the buck should always stop at his or her desk. The leader is in charge and must make the ultimate decision.  In one of his final speeches while he was still in office Truman said “no one else can do the deciding for you.”  When you are at the top, you are not allowed to play pass the buck.  I am sure you have seen this game played first hand.  It is when everyone passes the responsibility for a failure or a bad decision on to the next person.  It is almost like musical chairs.  Someone will get stuck holding the bag when the music stops. Another good lesson to learn is to never leave a meeting when a big issue is at hand or when finances are discussed.  I have seen people get his or her budget cut while he or she was in the bathroom. As a leader and as an organization, that is no way to operate. 

Everyone needs to take one on the chin every now and then.  Every leader needs to willingly take one for the team.  The good coach after a loss takes full responsibility for it.  He or she does not blame one of his or her assistants.  He or she does not blame the players.  The good coach accepts full responsibility.  He or she will say at the press conference that he or she has to coach better, or that he or she has to manage the game decisions better, or for that matter he or she has to prepare better.  That good leader does not point fingers.

There will also be times when one of your assistants will make a mistake.  In football, he may call the wrong defense at the wrong time.  He may commit to rushing the passer and leave the secondary vulnerable to a long pass.  And when it happens the head coach does not stand at the podium and question that defensive coordinator’s judgement or call.

The questions, the discussion and the arguments should take place behind closed doors .  You should extrapolate my football discussion to any organization.  In a school, the buck stops with the principal.  In a school district, the buck stops with the superintendent.  Where does the buck stop in your organization?  If you are in charge you cannot blame one of your subordinates.  You can correct everything in private, but when you are in public own the responsibility.

Your staff must also be well aware that you cannot, nor will not, keep taking that punch to the jaw for them.  You must coach them up and make them better.

Dwight Eisenhower had his speech prepared taking full responsibility for any failure of D-Day if that was to have occurred.

When the team wins, you share the credit and take none of it for yourself.  When the team loses, stand tall and take the responsibility for the loss.  That is the way true winners conduct themselves.  Are you that winner?

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