“I’m the president. And I’m always responsible,” President Barack Obama said in 2012 after the attack on a U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans were killed.
In 2010 that same leader said, “In case you were wondering, in any of your reporting, who’s responsible? I take responsibility” after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf.
On March 4, 1987, President Reagan addressed the American people from the Oval Office about the Iran-Contra Scandal and took responsibility for his Administration’s participation. He famously said: “Now, what should happen when you make a mistake is this: You take your knocks, you learn your lessons, and then you move on. That’s the healthiest way to deal with a problem… You know, by the time you reach my age, you’ve made plenty of mistakes. And if you’ve lived your life properly — so, you learn. You put things in perspective. You pull your energies together. You change. You go forward.”
President George W. Bush apologized to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki after a U.S. soldier used a Koran for target practice. He took responsibility for the action even though it did not directly flow from his orders.
On April 21, 1961, President John F. Kennedy took responsibility for the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion. He said, “There’s an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan … Further statements, detailed discussions, are not to conceal responsibility because I’m the responsible officer of the Government …”
After the speech, President Kennedy’s approval ratings actually soared. Maybe there is something to be gained from, as a leader, taking responsibility and offering an apology when it is due.
And of course President Harry Truman made famous the phrase, “The buck stops here.”
So, with regards to Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Ownes’ death during the raid in Yemen; when current U.S. President Donald Trump said in an interview that “they” were responsible for the outcome of the mission, in reference to the military, he is not being an Accountable Leader and accepting responsibility. Rather, he is passing blame on to others and seems to be more concerned with his appearances.
This is not a political commentary. This is only about being an Accountable Leader. It’s easy to accept the accolades of successes and wins but what really rallies the followers is an Accountable Leader who is always willing to “own it”, good or bad, win or lose, success or failure. And, most of the time they pass on the praises for the wins and usually stand a bit taller when things go wrong.
The Accountable Leader has a commitment to the people they lead to the faults and failures as well as the opportunities and successes. They know that leadership is never about you the leader. It is always about the people you lead. Accountability is the highest form of leadership!
When a leader owns it the people they lead know that the leader has their back. Those people will go to great lengths to succeed because they know that even if they come up short the Accountable Leader will be there; not pointing the finger but stopping the buck. That’s Accountable Leadership and those organizations with Accountable Leaders are always the ones that stand out.