Five Things Leaders Gain When They Stop Blaming


At the end of all my workshops, I always go around the room and ask what one thing each participant took away from the program. It is a great way for people to identify what they felt was valuable and what actions they may want to take to help them grow their leadership. This week was no exception and one brave individual shared:

“ I realized for the first time that I too was contributing to the problem. It wasn’t only the other departments who were causing the issues.”

“Wow!” I responded. “That was pretty incredible for you to admit.”

How many times have we blamed someone else for creating an obstacle when we ourselves were part of the disconnect? How many times have you taken the monkey off your back to place it on someone else’s?

Whether we are leading a large team or are sole entrepreneurs, we can get caught up in the enticing “blame game”. It is so easy to assume that others are at fault for mistakes on projects or are causing deadlines to be missed, even when we know we also have contributed to the error. By finding fault in what everyone else should have done differently, rather than identifying our part in the problem, we are not leading. We are not facing the truth that we too need to hold ourselves accountable.

When leaders swap out blaming others for holding themselves accountable they:


When team members take responsibility for their jobs by owning a piece of a problem, they are showing their vulnerabilities. They are being honest about how their actions may have added to a glitch, by admitting the truth. In teams and collaborations where people are forthcoming, there is more transparency and trust.


We each bring unique talents and gifts to our work and volunteer situations that those around us can benefit and grow from. If we choose to share our knowledge and experience, we will resolve challenges more readily and successfully. When we participate in the blame game, the best wisdom is often overlooked.


A great by-product of each person being accountable is that everyone feels responsible for something bigger than their own individual jobs. A new attitude starts to permeate across the team- “We are all in this together and we want to make this a success.” Relationships become deeper and we are willing to do more for one another, even if that means additional work.


Leading from wherever we are means taking the steps to make things happen and not waiting for someone else on our team or in another department to act first. The participant in my workshop realized that if she came up with some new guidelines for her team and the other areas, she could alleviate the issues that the customer was frustrated with. She had it within her control to spearhead the change.


Think of being accountable as a perfect way to brainstorm solutions with people from different vantage points. It is an opportunity to listen to new ways of thinking about the problem that would have never entered our minds. When different possibilities are collected and we stay open minded to alternative approaches, the resolution will be richer and inclusive, free of blame.

What are some ways you have put accountability high on your list? How has the blame game tripped you up?

 (photo credit: Flickr CC- Ian)

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8 thoughts on “Five Things Leaders Gain When They Stop Blaming

  1. Terri, Excellent post. When a culture moves a way from blaming to accountability, that’s when the real magic starts to happen. It’s much easier to create magical resuts when you’re not worried about who to blame or who gets the credit.

  2. I love your point, Karin, that “It is easier to create magical results when you’re not worried about who to blame or who gets the credit.” We are truly leading when it is less about us getting recognized and more about the outcome we achieve together with our teams.

    I just find that unless organizations are willing to create a culture of trust and transparency, it is difficult to have a culture of accountability. Working on trust building is essential.

    Thanks Karin for your great additions!

  3. People who blame others and make excuses for themselves are not respected or trusted. It’s the reason so many of us dislike politicians…

    Often, the best way to foster a culture of accountability is to model it yourself. As a leader, if you are willing to step back and admit an error, you set the tone for everyone else.

    Great post, Terri!

  4. Modeling accountability is the best way for leaders to show that by being open and forthcoming builds trustworthy relationships and strong teams.

    Being honest about a mistake or misstep is always tough but can bring an entire team together. When leaders show that they too have experienced disappointment and failure, their teams would see them as more human. If organizational cultures promoted a “mistakes are ok” attitude, they would experience more risk taking as well as innovation.

    Thanks LaRae!

  5. I’ve seen first hand how critical #3, Build Relationships is to stopping blame and building a stronger culture. I was working with some leaders who were big time blaming one of the other senior leaders for all of their woes. My gut told me that they didn’t get her… they made no effort to understand where she was coming from and all they could see was her bad behavior. Ultimately, they forged a relationship. While they will never be best friends, they turned blame into mutual respect acknowledging what they needed from each other instead of assuming that they were on opposite teams.

    Look forward to sharing, Terri!

  6. What a great story to share about leadership transforming. It must have been hard for the one senior leader to feel like she could do no good and was always taking the fall. I wonder if she felt some responsibility in adding to the problems. And if she did, was she part of the solution, rather than just the other leaders deciding to respect her? Sometimes we need to take control ourselves and tell our colleagues how we are feeling and how we see changing the dynamics.

    As always, thanks Alli for adding a different perspective to the dialogue!

  7. This is an absolutely awesome post Terri! Taking personal responsibility in our leadership and in life in general is so important. I agree with all your points on what it will bring to the workplace when people don’t blame, they accept what their part in it was. Fantastic post!

  8. Taking personal responsibility is essential for leaders as it promotes trust and deeper relationships. The blame game may seem like the easiest way to go but ends up creating friction and disappointment.

    Thanks Cynthia for adding your wonderful comments!

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