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Beware the Blame Game

There is a line in the song Budding Trees by Nahko and Medicine For the People that says, “Let go of blame, that shit will never serve me.” This is a powerful message for all of us, especially those in formal leadership positions.  I see too many people in leadership positions who are willing to throw their people under the bus at the first sign of trouble and point the finger of blame at everyone except himself or herself.

The blame game does not solve problems; it dissolves trust. It does not pull people together; it pushes them apart. It does not create human connection; it creates disconnected humans. It does not create a sense of engagement; it creates disengagement.

A piece of advice I share from Seth Godin in the Dare to Be Great workshops is, “Take the blame and give away the credit.” As a leader if there is an issue or problem with your team, you need to stand up, own it and take the blame. Acknowledge that you are the leader of the group and you accept full responsibility for what went wrong. This does not mean that you fail to address the issue. You absolutely address it within the team to determine what happened, what you learned, what you can do to ensure it does not happen again, and then you and the team move forward better off for the experience.

When things go well and you have success, give away the credit. Give credit to the team, to your peers who may have played a role in the success and your boss for his or her support and leadership.

“You can blame or you can learn. You can’t do both so you have to choose.”

Sidney Decker

Given the choice outlined by Sidney Decker, choose to learn. Leaders choose to learn; bosses choose to blame. Choosing to learn will result in growth, trust, engagement and forward progress. Taking the blame and giving away the credit models the desired behavior for your team and others in your organization that are watching and increases the likelihood that they will follow suit.

Remember that leadership is a choice and a journey and it starts with you. Choose well, keep learning and enjoy the journey.

Brian Willis

Register yourself, and your team for the Dare to Be Great: Strategies for Creating a Culture of Leading online workshop to get everyone on the same page regarding leadership and culture. If you are interested in hosting a live Dare to Be Great workshop reach out to me at