You have the experience, the technical expertise, and are accountable for your people and the results of the organization. Are you fulfilling the responsibilities of the leader?

Reflect on the following:

Do you feel your responsibility as a leader? To reach a leadership position you must have a number of prerequisite skills and experiences. But to truly be a leader you must feel the responsibility of your position. Military leaders readily talk about how they feel the responsibility of keeping their charges safe. Business owners clearly feel the internal pull their responsibilities have on them. Until you feel that strain – you are not a leader you are merely in a leadership position.

Take the perspective of a subordinate; ever observe a leader who did not feel the responsibility of leadership? Put that picture in your mind and recall what it looked like. Did they truly care about the critical issues? Did they resolve challenges no matter the personal cost, or were they able to walk away with the intent to resolve it later. The responsibility of leadership is a selflessness that puts others and the mission before self.

Leaders carry the burden of responsibility and can feel its gravity. Good leaders do not buckle under the load, but shoulder it without complaint. How does your leadership responsibility feel and look? Do others see the responsibility of leadership on your face? Should they?

Do you take action on your responsibilities? At times the burden of responsibility can be paralyzing. The information is not perfect and the results not always positive, however being responsible requires taking action. Sometimes your action may be incrementally small, while other times grave and drastic. Nonetheless, action is required, based on the reality of your situation and your position as a leader. Action establishes your credibility as a leader. Fail to act and you undermine your credibility. How do you act on your responsibilities?

Do you own your responsibilities?  You alone are responsible for your decisions, actions, and inactions as a leader. Ever experience a leader who would not take responsibility for their own decisions or lack thereof? How do your subordinates talk about you in this area? Respect is garnered by taking responsibility.

There are many facets of being a leader, with few being more important than accepting and acting on the responsibilities of leadership. How did you do with this short reflection? If you don’t feel the weight of your leadership responsibilities, if you don’t act on them, and own them, you are not a leader. You are merely standing in front of a group.


If you were asked “Do you have specific moral principles that guide you as a leader?” The inevitable answer would be: “Of course I do.” I bet you would probably be able to rattle off a list. But what does that mean? Recollect the most challenging moral dilemma you were faced with in your professional career. Now reflect on the following:

  • How were my moral principles applied in the event?
  • Was I flexible with my principles?
  • What did I learn about my principles and myself?

If leadership is a bond of trust between the leader and the led, how do you build that trust?

The Armed Forces Officer (National Defense University Press and Potomac Books Inc. 2007) provides guidance to those who lead in the most challenging environments. Those recommendations are easily adapted to every leadership environment.

Leaders set and enforce the standards: Establishing the expectation of performance is easy. What you do when the expectation is not met can be more difficult. Most importantly, your action or lack of action determines the true level of performance the organization will attain. How do you enforce the standards you set as the leader?

Leaders set the example: This one sounds like a no-brainer; however think how often you point out how your superiors set a poor example. Are your subordinates doing the same? How well do you set the example? If you expect honest and transparent behavior, do your subordinates see you withholding information in making a presentation to the boss? Do you skirt the rules because “rank has its privileges”? Take a few minutes to honestly assess yourself. If your subordinates acted exactly as you do, what would be the outcome?

Leaders model moral courage: Have you experienced a leader unwilling to take a moral stand and do what was right so they did not rock the boat? How did that change your view of them? Moral courage means doing what is right, even when the consequences may not serve you well. Identify an individual in your organization who regularly demonstrates moral courage? What do you think of them? How do your subordinates grade you on moral courage?

Leaders build and sustain morale: You are leading a high performance organization, working hard, producing results, and delivering on time. But is your team truly a team or just a collection of individuals. Does the team work together and demonstrate that the team is more important then the individual? Do team members step outside their assigned roles to assist others? How do they talk to others about the organization? Quantifying morale can be challenging, however when asked, subordinates will readily make it known how they feel about the team.

Reflecting on these four actions will provide an assessment of your leadership. If you are looking for some actionable feedback, you may consider soliciting input from your subordinates by asking: “How well do I …? Please provide specific positive and negative examples.

Everyone already knows the answers – except you.


As a leader you are continually evaluated on your performance, particularly when you are under duress. What would your report card say about you?

  • How well do you perform when under stress for extended periods of time?
  • What is it like to be one of your subordinate’s when you are under pressure or navigating a challenge?