‘Taking responsibility’ sounds altogether more prosaic than ‘exercising leadership’ and it is. Responsibility does not come in glossy packaging and therefore has few immediate takers. I am reminded of the classic story of the police recruit given an interesting scenario for his initiative test.
Called to the scene, he arrives to be jostled by a panic-stricken, nearly incoherent man and to find a crowd gathered round two other men clearly intent on killing each other. Behind them a burglar is obviously breaking into a house of one of the spectators.
The panic-stricken man has by now managed to get through to him that his wife is about to give birth to a baby, that EMS is on strike, and that his own car has broken down! The recruit can hardly take this in before he notices that across the street a fire is rapidly spreading through an apartment complex and a woman is already shouting for help from a top-floor window! Asked what to do in such a situation the confused recruit is alleged to have written:
‘Take off uniform and merge with the crowd’.
At some time or another ever person would like to do just that. Under the pressure of conflicting demands, in the confusion of competing priorities, everyone has been tempted to opt out of their responsibilities. Don’t give in!