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People have a tendency to cast blame, yet Jesus told the crowd of onlookers, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” (John 8:7) Jesus was saying that no one was without sin, and thus no one is blameless. A reason blaming others happens is because when something bad happens, we want to explain why; blaming someone else for it satisfies that need. We might want to defend ourselves and our actions by casting blame on someone else, thus making ourselves less responsible.
In my experience, people will blame you for everything.
When I became a leader, I was prepared for blame. I knew I would make plenty of mistakes for which I would need to take responsibility. I also knew that some things would be credited to me which I did not deserve.
What I did not know was that a leader would get blamed for everything happening in the lives of their followers. It’s a fascinating reality and one which I have experienced many times. They blame me for:
- bad marriages
- dashed dreams
- rebellious children
- stagnant careers
- and a variety of problems
It’s almost comical at times. I want to ask them several questions.
How did my leadership decision kill your marriage?
Which choice of mine caused your child to rebel?
How have my expectations caused your depression?
The answer of course is, they haven’t. Some things I would like to say to followers include:
There is a clear distinction between my leadership and the circumstances in your life.
All of your problems are not all my fault. Some of them might be. It’s possible I’ve made decisions which have had a negative impact on your life, but rarely am I to blame for everything that people blame me for.
Such is the nature of leadership.
People hold leaders to such a standard that they expect us to solve everything for them. They do not have the ability to distinguish between our decisions and their responsibilities. They rarely take personal responsibility for their decisions and instead take the easy road of blaming us.
It’s wrong and they shouldn’t do it.
But they do.
Yet what really matters is when we believe it. When we take on the guilt which they are trying to place upon us, we enter dangerous territory.
- We make bad decisions.
- We feel guilt we should not feel.
- We hesitate to do what needs to be done.
When we take on the emotions and responsibilities of others, we fail to be the leaders we are called to be. The added guilt and concern paralyzes us. Decisions are tough enough; we cannot afford to focus on information which should not influence us.
When we overestimate our ability to influence our followers’ lives, we hesitate to make difficult calls; we feel bad for having high expectations, and we protect bad employees while overextending good employees.
That’s when we become bad leaders.
So what is the answer?
Good leadership demands that we properly understand what we control and what we do not:
- We control the decisions we make.
- We do not control how others respond.
- We control the culture of the group we lead.
- We do not control the private lives of others.
- We control our feelings, thoughts, and actions.
- We do not control the feelings, thoughts, and actions of others.
- We control our lives.
- We do not control the lives of others.
As a leader, I have a great influence over those who follow me, but I am not in charge of their lives. I should take responsibility for many things, but I cannot take responsibility for everything in their lives.
Whenever I take on the responsibility of others, I neglect my own responsibilities.
People blame leaders for everything. But their blame shouldn’t hinder our actions.
We should do what we think is right, no matter the response from others.