One great man said, “ No matter how tall your grandfathers were, you must do your own growing”. The moral of this statement is that if you wish to reduce your weight it is only you and you alone who can do the exercise and you cannot delegate this task.
James Allan said, “you are the master of your thought, the moulder of your character, the maker and shaper of environment, condition and destiny. He continued to say, “When man begins to reflect upon his condition and search diligently for the law upon which his being is established, he then becomes the wise master, directing his energies with intelligence and fashioning his thoughts to fruitful issues such is the conscious master and man can only thus become by discovering within himself the laws of thought. This discovery is totally a matter of application, self-analysis and experience.”
In other words, you are your own doctor when it comes to curing cold feet, a headache and a negative attitude. But many leaders have developed a philosophy that says we are the reason for our successes and others are the reason for our failures. Zig Zigler has pointed out that we have all heard of the self made success but never the self-made failure.
Abraham Lincoln, for months he let his cabinet debate about if and when slavery should be abolished. He listened to them, but finally he made up his mind to issue his historic Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves. He did this because he knew it was his personal responsibility as president to guide and give direction to the nation concerning the issue at hand. When I studied Lincoln’s leadership, it seems to me, he had an extraordinary amount of emotional intelligence. He learned from his mistakes, shared responsibility for the mistake of others and at the same time was able to acknowledge errors.
Have you realized that every time you point an accusing finger at someone, you are pointing three fingers back at yourself, while the fifth one is pointing to God as witness! This implies that every leader is the cause of 75% of his problems. If someone else has a share, he can only be responsible for a maximum 25% of the blame. This implies that a leader would have still failed with or without anyone’s help! No wonder K.C. Price once said, “If you fail, it is your fault, it you succeed, it is your fault.”
Probably the best story I have heard illustrating the principal of personal responsibility comes from John Maxwell. He tells a story of a Sales Manager of a dog food company who asked his sales people how they liked the Company’s new advertisement, new label and package, and new sales force and they all answered in unison, “great”. The Manager then said “so we have got the best label, the best package, the best advertising program being sold by the best sales force in the business. Tell me why we are in the 17th place in the dog food business? There was unprecedented silence. Finally one of the sales force employee gathered courage and said, “It is those lousy dogs. They won’t eat the stuff!” The sales force blamed the dogs for not eating enough and that’s why the sales were quite low.
Great leaders do not behave like this sales force. They fight this very human tendency with every fiber of their beings. They take responsibility for their own actions in the leadership they hold. They are humble in victory, and reflective in defeat. Winston Churchill once said, ‘Responsibility is the price of greatness’. The sooner we accept that the number one person responsible for all our woes is our self, the quicker we begin to make decisions that will change our leadership.
Personal responsibility is not confined only to leadership of organizations or nations but also to individual citizens. You remember the continual televised woman in Kenyan televisions who was pleading for help from the government. For those who are not acquainted with her plea let me re-state what she said, “vitu yangu yote imeenda na maji – na bwana yangu sijui ameenda wapi. Niko tu na watoto peke yangu. Serikal tafadhali nisaidie – niko na shida mbaya kabisa”. ( all my goods have been taken way by water and I also do not know where my husband has gone. I am alone with the children. I appeal to the government to help me – I am terribly in a bad state). J. F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Somebody once said that no raindrop takes away responsibility for the flood yet the reality is that each drop played a part.
We will never have a medium developed nation by the year 2030 without a productive citizenry who are ready to take personal responsibility. It is the input of individuals within a nation that results in the overall development of a nation like ours. All citizens must put personal initiative to improve their lives. It is said that when you have one rich man in the midst of six poor people what you have are seven poor people.
If you study the work ethics of South Koreans, you won’t be surprised that they came from far behind to become the thirteenth industrialized nation in the world. They were among the poorest nations in 1948 and then the people suddenly become personally responsible.
All the people of South Korea realized that they were solely responsible for the destiny of their own lives and by extension their own country. Brian Tracy said “No matter who signs your paycheck, you are working for yourself. You are the President of an entrepreneurial personal services company with one employee, yourself. In the long run as a result of the things that you do, you determine how much you earn. If you want an increase in pay, you can go to the nearest mirror and negotiate with your “boss” -yourself.
Therefore, the biggest mistake people make is to think that they ever work for anyone else but themselves. The fact is that they are self employed from the time they take up the first assignment until called to glory.
There are some leaders who believe that effectiveness and excellence for example come from external factors like an efficient workforce or application of the latest technology, the truth of the matter, as visionary leaders have known over the centuries is that success is an inside job. Excellence begins within. Market leadership begins with self leadership. How can you lead an organization if you have never learned how to lead yourself? In other words, “before you can do something you must be something”. (Goethe, the Germany Philosopher).
Seneca said “To master one’s self is the greatest mastery”, while Confucius noted that ‘good people strengthen themselves ceaselessly!’ “Man is made and unmade by himself discovered James Allen.
Therefore, by improving, refining and defining’ who we are, we see the world from the highest most enlightened perspective. By mastering ourselves, we see the world and all its limitless opportunities and potential from the top of the mountain.
Even the modern leadership philosopher Peter Drucker observed that self-development of the effective executive is central to the development of the organization, whether it be a business, a government agency, a research laboratory a hospital or military service. It is the way towards performance of the organization.
All leaders have to understand that their number one responsibility is to lead people. If they could not lead themselves, they could not lead others. In other words, they can never take others further than they have gone themselves, for no one can travel without until he or she has travelled within. Indeed we are responsible for our own actions and nobody else.
A while back I was stranded in Moi International Airport Mombasa after a flight was cancelled. The guy next to me paced the floor for hours, fuming and cursing everyone associated with the airline. By the time we boarded the next flight out, his face was beet red. His blood pressure must have been off the chart. No one was responsible for all these but himself.
Louis L. Amour, the prolific author who wrote scores of novels about the old west summed up how each of us shapes our own destiny by the choices we make. He said, “up to a point a man’s life is shaped by environment, heredity, and moments and changes in the world about him. Then there comes a time when it lies within his grasp to shape the clay of his life into the sort of thing he wishes to be. Only the weak blame parents, their race, their times, lack of good fortune, or the quirks of fate. Everyone has it in his power to say This I am today: that I will be tomorrow”.
I wish to state that L. Amour’s forthright wisdom boils down to this, choices have consequences. Make good ones in your leadership, you prosper. Make lousy ones, you fail.
Arnold J. Toynbase said, “ As human beings, we are endowed with freedom of choice, and we cannot shuffle responsibility upon the shoulder of God or nature. We must shoulder it ourselves.” Therefore no one can do press up for you, but ‘you’.