Nowadays, individuals that hold a higher position do not necessarily take accountability for their errors. It can be numerous reasons such as not wanting to lose rank, credibility, or having a bad reputation. We were taught at a young age that if we take accountability of our actions, whether they are good or bad, consequences might not be as severe. Parents engraved this in our brain to do so, but do we implement that every day? Society now would put the blame on someone else, so they would not be blamed for the mistake that they originally made. It is set in our minds that if we probably won’t get caught or further investigation be applied that we blame someone else for our mistakes. People are fearful of what the repercussions would be if they were to put the fault on themselves. I believe that our generation struggles more with taking ownership of our responsibilities due to the fact that negative consequences, judgment, and the ability to make decisions plays a larger part in our society.
To quote Jocko Willink, “Implementing Extreme Ownership requires checking your ego and operating with a high degree of humility. Admitting mistakes, taking ownership, and developing a plan to overcome challenges are integral to any successful team” (Willink, n.d.). If one cannot admit his or her mistakes and take action, he or she cannot move forward onto the next task. Jocko Willink, a former Navy Seal, led a joint force taskforce that he was in charge of that consisted of service members of the U.S Army, Marines, friendly Iraqi Soldiers, and his fellow Navy Seal members. He was brought up where there was confusion as to who the enemy was. (Fog of War) In the end, a horrific firefight broke out and cost a lot of innocent Soldier’s lives. Especially in a situation like this where lives are at stake, Willink should have been made aware of every single detail so he could have made the best decision possible. In the military, we called that fratricide, an ultimate sin for the military.
At the time, Jocko was the commander of operations and he had to de-brief his higher officials of what had taken place in this incident. Not knowing if he would get relieved from the military, Jocko risked his whole military career by saying, “the only one to blame was me.” He stated that it hurt his ego and his pride to take the blame for what happen in the battlefield. His commanding officer was surprised and expected him to finger point other people for what had happen. For showing the attribute of ownership in the midst of a tragic situation, his commanding officer treated him with more respect rather than ridicule him. What makes a great leader is the ability to take accountability of not only yourself, but as well as your peers. Other attributes that make a great leader are honesty, quick decision-making, and commitment. As a society, we as individuals fear that if we were to make a mistake, we will be judged by everyone else and face embarrassment. There is nothing embarrassing about making a mistake; it is what makes us human. In addition, life is about making mistakes. What really makes an individual successful is being able to learn from the mistake and making it a lesson for improvement.
One way a leader can show accountability to whatever he or she is doing is to admit to mistakes and weaknesses in the face of numerous responsibilities like Jocko Willink did. For example, a leader can bring up a story or an occurrence to his team for what happen when they were in a bad situation that cause them to show accountability of their action and how their superior would treat them with more respect for owning up to their mistake. The example then can be turned into a coaching moment that may inspire others to change their approach to avoid accountability for their action. Being held accountable for their action doesn’t mean that they should repeat the same mistake twice or even three times. They should learn from it and work on a better solution so when the problem occurs, they won’t have any issues accessing the situation.
The famous quote from the former President Harriet Truman ‘The Buck Stops Here’ (Esdal, 2015) originated with the game of poker when a player did not want to deal, he or she would “pass the buck” to another player. In other words, he or she would pass on the responsibilities to someone else. President Truman had this on his desk to symbolize that an individual can pass on the responsibilities over to one person after another continuously, but at the end of the day a decision had to be made. For example, a platoon is stranded out in the wilderness with limited resources. No one wants to take action or responsibility as to what resources are vital and how the resources should be used. They all just give each other a blank stare until someone speaks. In this situation, the platoon leader should take responsibility and assemble a plan to get his troops to the nearest and safest location.
Judgment, embarrassment, and decision-making are the factors that effect this generation on taking accountability and ownership. Not knowing all the details of a situation can lead to complications, such as people not wanting to take the blame or deaths of soldiers in the case of Fog of War. Willink took responsibility for what had happened to his troops and himself. For his honesty and forwardness, he received respect for his actions, which made him a great leader. An individual can pass on responsibilities to another person, but in any situation, a decision has to be made in order to move forward. As a society, many individuals refuse to take responsibility or ownership because we do not want to face the repercussions such as jail time or the death sentence. To put it simply, when one takes the road less taken and actually accepts the responsibility of admitting to his mistake, he is seen as more respectable than the one who does not.