New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a leading candidate to lead the Republican Party into the next presidential election, has found himself in the middle of a political maelstrom.
Last September, staff in Christie’s office closed three access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, N.J., creating a traffic nightmare of epic proportions. Christie originally told journalists the lanes were closed as part of a traffic study. We then found out that the lanes were actually closed to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, who refused to endorse Christie’s last re-election bid.
Christie moved quickly to defuse the scandal, firing his deputy chief of staff and twice apologizing for the dirty trick. However, as has been noted by many commentators, Christie has not admitted any blame himself.
Although no one has alleged he was directly involved in the lane closures, there is abundant evidence that Christie is the author of the culture of retribution that clearly existed in his office.
I believe Christie’s predicament prompts an important Gut Check question for all of us leaders: Do you have the guts to take the blame?
As a leader, you live and die based on the performance of the people you lead. It is a fundamental truth of leadership. At some point, your people are going to let you down. It’s a reality all of us as leaders or would-be leaders must accept.
Now you may find yourself taking the fall because someone you lead is misbehaving. Other times it will be because of gross incompetence or instances where they are simply underperforming.
How you respond will reveal a lot about who you truly are as a leader. Are you quick to blame others? Can you accept sharing the blame in all failures? Does the buck truly stop with you?
Passing the buck on blame has many negative consequences. First, it weakens your organization’s credibility in the eyes of the outside world. Let’s face it, the more you try to blame the people who work underneath you, the more your customers, the media and the market see weakness. Strong leaders step up and accept the blame.
However, passing the buck can also eat away at your organization from the inside. To be an effective leader, you must have the confidence and trust of your employees. Lose that, and you lose your fundamental ability to lead.
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About the Author
Vince Molinaro is the Global Managing Director of Strategic Solutions at Lee Hecht Harrison. He is also the author of The Leadership Contract – a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Vince has spent more than 20 years as an adviser to boards and senior executives looking to improve leadership in their organizations.Follow on Twitter More Content by Vince Molinaro