Creative Leadership

New Leaders: Accountability Starts On Day One

In the last few years there have been some decisive shifts in leadership at major companies and nonprofit organizations. I spent the afternoon a few months ago with a leader who took over for a retired CEO at a well-known nonprofit organization. This new leader has been in place for over three years, but the truth is, he’s failing – badly.

When I asked him about it, he blamed it on the previous retired CEO. The former leader wasn’t terribly decisive, and created a culture where everyone thought they should have a vote on everything. Needless to say, the administrative structure collapsed pretty quickly, and mutiny became standard operating procedure.

Into this nightmare came the new leader, and he’s been trying to change the culture now for more than three years. Bottom line? He’s failed. He means well, and works hard, but simply doesn’t have the experience and leadership skills to command the type of respect that inspires and motivates employees toward change. But rather than admit it, he blames the culture on the previous leader. He’s right to a great degree. The former leader was a disaster. But he’s wrong to continue using that as an excuse.


Because a new leader assumes leadership, responsibility, and accountability from day one.  Certainly it takes time to shift an organization’s culture, create significant initiatives, or see results. But a great leader makes the organization’s problems his or her problems starting day one.

Only through personal ownership does real change begin happening. That’s true at every level, but especially true with a CEO or leader.

Take responsibility whether you’re responsible for it or not. It’s yours now. If you can’t handle it, then you need another job.

Have you ever worked for a leader who refused to take ownership of the situation?

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