Leaders Do Not Make Excuses

Leaders Do Not Make Excuses

Excuses, we have all made them. Owning up to mistakes or missteps can be challenging. Our natural pride doesn’t want others to think poorly of us. There are excuses from the mundane to the outrageous – my alarm didn’t go off, traffic was terrible, and I couldn’t get my kids up. Another excuse we hear is, “It is above my pay grade,” which one expert says is another way of saying, “It is not my job.” Team members quickly notice when leaders tolerate and allow excuses. Tolerating excuses creates a culture of avoidance instead of accountability and responsibility.

Authors Buford & Georges (2022) say that personal responsibility is at the heart of what it means to lead. Genuine, authentic leaders take personal responsibility for their behavior and actions and have the courage to hold others accountable for theirs. Excuses attempt to hide personal or professional insecurities, laziness, or lack of ability. They accomplish nothing. Benjamin Franklin said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”

Excuses have become the rule, and performance has become the exception. When leaders accept excuses, they say they accept mediocre performance from their team. Challenges and setbacks are opportunities for growth and development, not permission for rationalizations and justifications.

There are a few things you can do to deal with team members that always have an excuse:

  1. Lead by example.
    • Do not make excuses for yourself or others.
    • Do not allow employees’ excuses to distract you from the facts of the situation.
    • Take quick action to deal with the problem or behavior.
  2. Do not take responsibility for a team member’s personal problem.
    • As a leader, you are not responsible for their personal life. Focus on work-related issues. This, however, does not mean that you neglect empathy.
  3. Focus on solutions, not causes.
  4. Ask the team members to help solve the problem to prevent future instances.

A mistake is an opportunity to learn. Do not make excuses. Instead, take accountability and learn from the situation. Taking responsibility for mistakes goes a long way in earning the respect of others. If you don’t own it, you can’t improve it.

By Cheryl Viola, Executive Director & CEO, MBA