Majid Rahman

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why do people give leaders too much credit or blame for organizational outcomes?

This is a concept I am working on for a research project but would appreciate some feedback.

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    Aug 20 2011: lol I like the analogy, I may decide to use it in my research, just to spice up the read. do i have your permission?
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    Aug 19 2011: Humans are built to follow. In this respect we are much like sheep. Since accepting the blame for following the wrong shepherd is uncomfortable, folks need to externalize the blame when things go wrong. The leader is the obvious object.

    But leaders are not fools. If they want to get the benefits of wool and mutton from the sheep, they must either find or create a dangerous threat which will keep the sheep huddling in a mass. If only one or two sheep die (if there's a real threat) the shepherd steps forward to claim credit that every surviving sheep didn't 'buy the farm'. If no sheep die (because the shepherd was just playing a mind game) the shepherd still stands there and says, "If it wasn't for me, you'd all be dead." Sheep aren't too bright, so they simply figure, "Guess he's right!"

    End of analogy.
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    Aug 19 2011: Leadership isn’t about blaming others, but realizing any blame levied should rest solely upon the leader. The best leaders will only point the finger at one person – themselves. The truth of the matter is no victories are won by participating in the blame game. Blame doesn’t inspire, it breeds malcontent and discord. If trust is the cornerstone of leadership, then blame can only be viewed as the corrosive behavior that eats away at the foundation. Don’t be the “Teflon” leader who worries about what might stick – be the mature leader who takes the hit, deals with the issue, and moves forward with character. Lead – don’t blame…

    Real leaders won’t accept credit for success, but always claim responsibility for failure. In analyzing why some leaders struggle with blame shifting I’ve concluded it usually comes down to an overabundance of pride or a lack of courage. Excuses, rationalizations, and justifications will never serve as an adequate substitute for courage and humility. Those in leadership positions who talk rather than listen, and point fingers rather than take decisive action have simply failed to lead.
    • Aug 19 2011: Your statements take any idea of holding people (other than the leader) accountable out of the equation.

      Without holding followers accountable, a leader will never be successful. That leader must be held accountable as well. The success or failure of the group will be due to human error---failing to recognize and correct that error is a two way street.
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        Aug 19 2011: Hi Jason:

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I would suggest there is a difference between accountability and responsibility. All people need to be accountable for their actions regardless of title or position. That said, the leader is ultimately responsible for everything that happens on their watch. Moreover, good leaders will use accountability as a development opportunity rather than an opportunity to blame. Perhaps semantics are in play here, but there are subtle distinctions between accountability, responsibility and blame that can have a not so subtle impact on organizational success.
        • Aug 19 2011: In this case, I hold semantics 100% responsible for the miscommunication and I agree with your views on the subject.

          If semantics were the leader, I would call for his/her replacement! :)
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    Aug 19 2011: Unfortunately we are weak and lazy creatures. Thats why we like to be lifted by some superior. And in the end if dont like the place where we were being lifted we accuse the superior. There are only a few amongst us who don't fit to this role these ones are either called leaders or public enemies.
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    Aug 19 2011: Thanks you all for your responses so far.

    I realise my hypothesis is rather suggestive, the intention of publishing it is to get an idea of whether the phrasing should be reconsidered. I guess the real question should be 'do they get blame or credit and if so then is it deservedly so?'

    However two examples which I feel support the initial hypothesis (but no way do I suggest they are enough to make it conclusive) are; Enron and Apple. Steve Jobs I feel deserved credit for the rise of apple and it's continuing success. On the other hand, leadership at Enron I feel were to be blamed for it's collapse due to years of lies and illegal tactics which in the end came crashing down.

    The true nature of the research is to establish the relationship between the follower and leader, at what stage are followers held accountable for their actions or is it fair to say that leaders herald all credit or blame since they are expected to run things and are paid accordingly.

    Psychological research has shown that in most cases individuals are prepared to carry out an action if it is an 'order' thus relieving them of any responsibility or potentially credibility, but I feel that each individual has a decision to make, especially in a modern organisation. Leaders instructions are guidelines for them, but as long as they are within certain parameters of working practices and legality, they are expected to use initiative. Individuals are responsible for improvement of an organisation and using initiative means they take credibility or blame for their actions. Just because a leader projects the vision it is actually the rest of the staff who clothe it, shape it and make it a reality so responsibility should be shared. This is my current view but hopefully my research will help me draw a valid conclusion.

    I will appreciate your feedback on what I have written, I take criticisms constructively:-)
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      Aug 19 2011: I think that your example with Apple and Enron is flawed. Remember that we perceive Apple and S Jobs as more or less the same thing. So each success of Apple is automatically seen a SJ success. But I'm sure that if you would talk to someone from inside the Apple they would say that SJ gets too much credit, because it was really that person's department that was crucial for this success.
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        Aug 19 2011: I used Enron and Apple because they were the most obvious ones to mention but I do agree that their teams should possibly grab the headline a bit more. In Apple's case would you not agree that if it the team is delivering on his vision, from his direct involvement, and from what I have read he is very controlling and very hands. Would he not be given full credit for being the driving force without which Apple could possibly go off course?
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    Aug 18 2011: For the same reason we blame the bus driver when the bus crashes--- they were steering.

    They also get the 'big BIG bucks' whether they create a disaster or not.

    Also, they have had their kick at blaming everyone else!
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    Aug 18 2011: I think that you should first say why do you think that is so as you speak. I can believe that people happily pass the blame onto others, but I really doubt if anyone would give too much credit to any leader.
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    Aug 18 2011: Real leader gives all credits to his people and takes all blame if things goes wrong.

    In reality in hyper competitive organizational set up I mostly see "success has many fathers failure is orphan"

    Not sure from where your hypothesis of premise came from......can you please give some proof , I might be missing that.
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      Aug 19 2011: I haven't seen any of them for ages...
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        Aug 19 2011: If your reply is about the first line of my post , I agree they are really rare breed. I am fortunate to come across at least one such.
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          Aug 19 2011: Salim, I read about a number of them during my MBA but I think you are fortunate to have personal experience with one. I too think that they are rare.