Real Leaders Don’t Make Excuses

“Leaders have forfeited their right to make excuses.” – Horst Schulze


How many times in the last year have you heard high profile leaders making excuses for something that happened in their organization rather than taking responsibility for it? Statements like:

  • “The price of oil fell more than expected and because of the previous government’s actions, we now can’t balance the budget.”
  • “It was an engineer working for us that programmed a module to defeat pollution control tests.”
  • “Someone falsified and deleted data to make our test results look better”

Leaders have to take responsibility for their organizations. They cannot make excuses and pass the blame to someone or something else. As Horst Schulze says, when you take on a leadership role, you forfeit the right to make excuses.

Back in 2008/09 I took over the leadership of an engineering company whose primary business was serving oil and gas companies. It was a bad time for any business back then but it was especially bad for oil and gas dependent businesses. Oil crashed from over $100 a barrel to under $40 a barrel and work literally disappeared overnight.

As a leader, I had a choice. I could complain about the company’s previous leadership, or the current government, or oil conspiracies – or I could take responsibility for where we were at and take the actions necessary to move the business from its precarious state back to a healthy, viable business. Thankfully, I chose the latter decision and our business recovered and grew amazingly!

Leaders that blame others or make excuses create a workforce that is full of bureaucratic, back biting, self-serving, ladder climbing, disengaged workers.┬áMaking excuses or blaming others discredits and damages a leader’s reputation and their leadership ability.

Employees want, and businesses need, strong leaders who can provide visionary direction and instill confidence in the workforce. Leaders that can do this for their organizations in good times and in bad are what employees are looking for and respond to.

Successful leaders;

  • Envision a successful future
  • Take responsibility to move the organization to this future state
  • Continuously communicate this vision of the future to the organization
  • Implement actions to enable the better future
  • Focus on the positive
  • Address the challenges and overcome them
  • Recognize individuals for their contributions
  • Celebrate victories along the way
  • Do not make excuses

Don’t make excuses about what happens in your organization. As a leader, you are responsible for what happens. Take responsibility, decide of a course of action and make positive things happen!

What excuses have you made in the last few months that you need to step up and take responsibility for?


“I never met a man who was good at making excuses, who was good at anything else.” Benjamin Franklin


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