"The buck stops here" said the sign on former President Harry S. Truman's desk. As the leader of the country, he knew that he was ultimately responsible for all American outcomes...good or bad.

What can an entrepreneur learn from President Truman?

Today's business world is hectic. Everyone is expected to produce more, even on tiny budgets. Leaders may not have time to gather information before making a decision. If something goes sideways, it can be easy to place blame: on the team, on the system, on the marketplace. Robert L. Joss, Dean of the Graduate Business School at Stanford University knows that blaming destroys trust and credibility. He says, "Too many leaders get caught up in thinking about power rather than their responsibility to those they lead...You have to enlist followers when you're in a role at the top, and you're very dependent on those followers. What you want are people who are inspired, who are committed, who are motivated. It's your job to instill confidence in them."

So, if you want to achieve greatness, take responsibility for all aspects of your life, personal and professional. This responsibility includes sidestepping excuses and blaming-and taking control of events. The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) lists five key responsibilities for leaders:

  1. You're responsible for assuring that your company is not only still around in ten years, but that it is in a better situation than today.
  2. You're responsible for "the big picture." People rely on your for your vision and guidance.
  3. You're responsible for asking questions, even if they are tough. It can take moral courage to follow-up when you get answers.
  4. You're responsible for setting the example: in your work ethic and in your integrity.
  5. You're responsible for embracing the mission and demonstrating your commitment to the company.

These responsibilities carry over into all areas of your life. They are easily "translated" into your personal relationships and outside activities. Leadership doesn't stop when you shut your office door.

If you want to achieve outstanding results, remember this final quote from another successful leader, Winston Churchill: "The price of greatness is responsibility."

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