One last behavioral trend to round out a few recent posts on behaviors that correlate with importance. The others were on leaders having the least stuff, being the least hurried, and the most common route to becoming CEO.
People know this one, though they don’t always act consistently with it.
Look throughout an organization. The higher you move in the organization chart, the more responsibility people have. Having responsibility because of your position isn’t the same as choosing to take responsibility. But people who choose to take responsibility become more important in their communities. Likewise, people who shirk responsibility lose importance. There are wide exceptions, of course.
By the way, accountability and responsibility go hand in hand, so people who choose to make themselves accountable also rise in importance and people who avoid being accountable decline.
I’ve worked with low-level bureaucrats who don’t take responsibility and are accountable to no one, as I’m sure most people have, like when renewing a driver’s license. Sometimes their behavior is the result of the system around them — bureaucracies do that. Sometimes they choose the pattern on their own. They may feel they’re making their lives easier or better, but they’re limiting themselves. They’re putting a glass ceiling over their lives.
Low-level bureaucrats aren’t the only ones who behave this way. Most of us have at some point. The question is if we’ve stuck with that pattern or learned from it and moved on.
Personally, the years I spent in companies I didn’t start, I avoided taking responsibility and being accountable. Each time I did so, I felt I made my life easier, so the choices felt right. After some time, I grew to disrespect the choices I made and to avoid working in large companies where one could get lost. I felt working for a company you started forced you to be accountable and to take responsibility. I’ve since come to realize others find large organizations great for responsibility, but I’ve stuck with my strategy of my starting projects forcing me to be responsible and accountable.
So if you want to be important, look to take responsibility. Then make yourself accountable. It may feel awkward at first, but it grows on you. Eventually you learn to enjoy it. Then people feel comfortable following you.
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