In my consulting practice, the first order of business I engage in with a new client is to mutually sign a list of twelve pledges to set up guidelines on how we will interact with each other. By both parties agreeing to these guidelines in writing, we can immediately establish the foundation of a fundamentally sound relationship, built on clarity of purpose and behavior. The first pledge is obviously the most important – which states that we will each VALUE our TIME as our most PRECIOUS ASSET. This pledge is never any surprise to anyone who knows me. However, second on my list of priorities is the pledge: “I will take TOTAL RESPONSIBILITY for all of MY actions.” I have always stressed that “You have arrived where you are today, by the accumulation of all the choices or lack of decisions you made in your life up to this point in time.” While I whole hardily profess these statements regarding RESPONSIBILITY, the key phrase in this pledge is to take full responsibility “FOR ALL OF MY ACTIONS.” The question we will ponder in this lesson is “who is responsible for the irresponsible behavior of those around you – who cause problems that get passed on to you?
Irresponsibility is defined as “the trait of lacking a sense of responsibility and not feeling accountable for your actions.” When any individual feels that they are not accountable to others for their actions, a sense of irresponsibility sets in and ugly situations are sure to follow. Just study any dictator throughout history, and you will learn that not being accountable for their actions – created many problems for their citizens. The same holds true for lifetime politicians who seem to get elected by default, due to apathy of voters or the lack of funding available for rookie politicians. These politicians become mini-dictators in their own sense and over time do more harm than good. They have a tendency to break the very rules and laws that they make, and seem to insulate themselves from any consequences.
Another example of irresponsibility was recently in the news. We learned all about the bar hopping that Lindsay Lohan and her Mom Dina have been engaging in. Here’s a situation where an under-aged Hollywood Star who has no business whatsoever to be drinking – does so with her mother next to her, watching her get drunk. What kind of message does Dina’s behavior send to Lindsay? And who’s ultimately responsible for the irresponsible behavior of Lindsay?
In the case of Dina Lohan, it appears that she is attempting to relive her life through her daughter’s fame and success. Besides being a mother to Lindsay, she is also her business manager. She seems to have put the financial success of her daughter as a top priority, well before Lindsay’s health and well being. Mature and responsible adults have a tendency to blame themselves for the irresponsible behavior of their employees; co-workers; parents; children; legislators; and anyone else who touches their life negatively in some fashion. Dina doesn’t appear to be acting out the role of a mature and responsible adult and mother as she watches over and even joins in the negative behavior of her daughter.
While parents cannot always be held responsible for the irresponsible behavior of their adult children, it seems prudent to believe that parents have a responsibility to set a good example for their children, regardless of their age. Children learn from their parent’s behavior and parents should not engage in any type of behavior that they would not like to see their children emulate.
The same holds true for employers or leaders in any field. The command “do as I say and not as I do” is an irresponsible statement. By taking total responsibility for all of your own actions, you are setting an example for everyone around you to do the same. Everyone needs some type of structure in their lives. We need rules or tests of accountability, in order to act in a responsible fashion. If we are not accountable for our behavior, we will eventually lead an unruly and unhappy life. Irresponsibility leads to self imposed destruction of character and health habits.
Thus it seems prudent to establish rules and guidelines for appropriate behavior in all venues, with clear cut consequences for breaking the rules. Since no one is an angel, rules of behavior will always be compromised at some time or other by everyone. However, if there’s never a consequence for misbehavior, breaking the rules will become a pattern of behavior rather than the exceptional slip-up with a feeling of deep remorse for our actions.
Always take TOTAL RESPONSIBILITY for YOUR ACTIONS, and then hope that those around you will learn from your example.