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Taking responsibility as a leader

If you choose to be a leader, you have a RESPONSIBILITY to take care of your people. To quote Simon Sinek, “Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.”

As we move into, what many are predicting is the next recession; we will see layoffs across several organizations. I experienced a layoff in 2008, drastically impacting my views of the employer/employee relationship.

Simon Sinek talks about how when things get tough, we wouldn’t fire our children or family members. We’d tighten up the budget and navigate the storm. During the COVID-19 pandemic, some organizations chose to reduce the salary of their top earners to ensure they could weather the storm without needing to let go of people. And yet, not every organization has that luxury. Some organizations need to cut staff to survive. Josh Bersin recently wrote that they’re a natural part of the growth cycle of a business.

But, as business leaders, we can choose to lead with compassion and the best interest of our people, or we can be like one of the wealthiest people on our planet and boot people from their jobs with minimal regard to the impact on the individuals OR the business.

Several years ago, I was a part of an acquisition. I led HR for the acquired organization and worked with the acquiring company to extend offers to our transitioning employees. We were fortunate that the majority could secure roles in the new organization. However, there are bound to be many questions and nervousness at any time of transition. On the day the offers dropped to each transitioning employee, I received many questions via email, chat, phone calls – you name it. I fully expected it and can remember sitting in my office well into the evening to ensure it went as smoothly as was in my control. There was one team, though, whose offers didn’t come through as expected. The fastest way to get some answers was to call the leader of that team directly and discuss with them. I called them and was quickly dismissed: “I’m just getting to the golf course I can’t deal with this now.” I had zero answers for this team. It’s also possible we may not have solved it in that one phone call. However, did you notice this leader’s priorities?

If you’re a manager/leader, at some point in your career, if not recently or in the next year, you will likely need to manage through some difficult situations with your people. To quote another of my favorite thought leaders, Brené Brown, “clear is kind.” By avoiding difficult conversations, you might feel like you’re being nice, but if that avoidance withholds potentially valuable information for your people, you’re not being kind.

Remember that as a manager and leader, you’re responsible for other humans. Take that responsibility with the weight it deserves. What can you do to ensure you’re respecting your commitment and responsibility of being kind (not nice) to your people?


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