When was the last time you read a leadership book or attended a leadership conference where it was taught that blaming your people for the performance (or lack thereof) of your church was the right thing to do?
I have never heard this from anyone that truly understood leadership. In fact, I’ve always read, heard, and experienced the opposite. In their book Spiritual Leadership, Henry and Richard Blackaby write “Spiritual leadership necessitates an acute sense of accountability. Just as a teacher has not taught until students have learned, leaders don’t blame their followers when they don’t do what they should do.” Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time the cause of a problem is not the people doing the job. It’s the fault of the system. And, who is responsible for the system?
Who has the authority to make changes in any organization? Who should understand the system at the highest level? I believe the answer is the leader. In other words, if things are not going according to plan the leader (usually at the top) needs to take a look in the mirror to find the person to blame! So, why do so many who are in leadership positions blame their employees for problems? I believe it’s because it is the easy way out … at least that’s what they think. “Let’s fire that person and find someone else that can do a better job” … when the person in that position, nine times out of ten, is doing the best they can with what they’ve been given by their leader. Disagree? The real fix requires much more work from the leader. They might actually have to change something about themselves. What a concept! Systems thinking and building solid infrastructure is very hard work!
If you disagree with my position on this, I invite you to defend your position. Give me a book title where the author advocates blaming employees for problems. Provide me with a link to a leadership conference where the leadership guru is going to teach that problems are fixed by firing people and replacing them. I challenge you to back up your position with data! I’ll be happy to provide a long list of book titles that back up my position.
OK … so what about the point one percent of the time when the problem is the employee? Good question. It’s really pretty simple. Ask yourself “Have I done everything I am supposed to do as a leader to ensure this person has what they need to be successful? Have I asked them what they need and provided them with it? Are they working hard to try to do a good job? Are they truly giving it their best shot?” If you have provided them with what they need but they are lazy or otherwise just not giving it their best shot, perhaps you have an employee who needs to work somewhere else. Again, this is almost always not the case.
So, on what should the leader focus? In any organization, the leadership must focus on the system! They must focus on vision casting, developing infrastructure, and treating employees with respect. In the words of University of Alabama head football coach Bear Bryant, “When something goes really well, they did it. When something goes marginally well, we did it. And, when something goes very poorly, I did it.” These are words that we, as leaders, should live by!
So, the next time you are inclined to blame someone for a problem, stop and go find a mirror. You won’t have to look much further to find the person to blame!