Leaders Take Responsibility

“That’s not my fault”
“She’s the one to blame.”
“That’s his fault.”
“The referee is to blame.”


You don’t have to be around athletics very long to hear these types of phrases from student-athletes blaming a mistake or setback on someone else. Sadly, more often these phrases are often uttered not only by athletes, but also coaches, administrators, and parents. What’s important to understand about blame is that it makes us feel better temporarily because it’s the easy way out. But in the long-term, blame creates excuses and does absolutely nothing towards creating a better situation at this very moment or in the future.  Instead, team members should take responsibility for any mistakes they made which led to a losing performance.

Taking responsibility isn’t about who’s at fault. It’s about taking ownership of your situation in order to improve it. Anyone can take responsibility even when we aren’t to blame, but it takes a very secure and confident person to do so. Legendary coach John Wooden is a great example of a coach who understood the importance of given credit and taking responsibility.

Wooden once said, “A leader who preens (brags) publicly is no better than a player who calls attention to himself by pounding his chest after making a basket. What are they both saying? ‘Me, me, me!’

“Listen to a good coach following a win. He praises members of the team as if he hadn’t been involved with their success. He accepts responsibility for the mistakes made by those under his leadership. A selfless leader puts the team first. A first-rate team is often the reward.

“Don’t draw attention to yourself; don’t be like the fellow at church who coughs loudly just before he puts a coin in the collection plate.”

Coach Wooden wonderfully conveys how important it is that as a leader of a team, taking responsibility is one of the most powerful actions you can take to create resilient and loyal troops. And if you’re part of the troops, taking responsibility is one of the best ways to gain the respect and trust of leadership. Anyone can blame, but few have the courage to take responsibility. Blame is about the past. Responsibility is about taking action in the present to create a better future.

It’s easy to blame the officials for bad calls. It’s hard to take responsibility by coaching your athletes to stay focused on the task at hand even when things don’t go their way.

It’s easy to blame your team for not playing hard and not caring enough. It’s hard to take responsibility for the team you are leading by making sure they are better prepared.

It’s easy to blame and make excuses. It’s hard to take responsibility…especially when it’s not your fault.

Try This:

1) Find something that was a success today and give credit to someone else. Give credit to your teammates for a good performance. Give credit to your coaches for having your team prepared. Give credit to the officials for doing a tough job.

2) Find something to take responsibility for, not blame, but responsibility. That’s what good leaders do. Take responsibility for a slow start to a game. Then take action by or working with your teammates toward improving your situation.

Remember that as a leader, people are following your example. When you learn to give credit to others for successes, you are building confidence and teaching others to take control of their performance. When you take responsibility for the challenges that sport and life present, you are developing resiliency in your team and leading teammates toward action that moves them forward.