“A good manager is a man who isn’t worried about his own career but rather the careers of those who work for him.” ~H.S.M. Burns
“A real leader faces the music, even when he doesn’t like the tune.” ~Author Unknown
Great leaders, and I mean GREAT leaders, not only never throw anyone under the bus, but actively throw themselves under the bus in place of their staff. Do you know any leader like this? Would you admire them if you saw them? The fact that it is so rare is a testament to how difficult it really is.
So why do they do this? OWNERSHIP & EXAMPLE
Any mistake in their area of oversight is their fault – They should have seen it coming, should have prepared better, should have audited work better, or should have set up better processes. They understand that there is always something they could have done to prevent the mistake from occurring, and while the employee or peer may have had culpability as well, ultimately they are the leader.
Setting an example of accountability for their staff to follow – If your boss is owning ANY mistake that could possibly be their fault, how much easier is it for you to see that owning up to mistakes is OK. Just as you take a wide area of responsibility, your staff will begin to emulate that and take accountability for overall department performance not just their area.
Letting the staff know that they are supported – You are demonstrating that they do not stand alone. This can be incredibly freeing for your staff, mitigates fear of failure, and based on both of these facets, significantly increases productivity.
Building Goodwill – How much harder would you work for someone who took the heat for you? Or at bare minimum stood alongside you? Just saying.
This isn’t easy, especially in a corporate environment that uses a heavy hand regarding mistakes, but the maturity you show by doing so can reap enormous benefits for the productivity of your department and your career. To use a battle analogy: Your staff is not cannon fodder, lead them from the front lines. Just as their success is your success, their failure will be yours as well.