Responsibility & Response-Ability

Uncertainty is a regular part of leadership (Thank you 2020 for making this abundantly clear- as if we didn’t already know, but I digress…). One way leaders can navigate uncertainties, large and small, is to define their responsibilities and response-abilities.

Responsibilities are what fall under our purview; whatever we are accountable for within our given roles. Responsibility discernment may be difficult in times of uncertainty. However, a clear awareness of what falls within our roles may help us to sort what belongs to us and what’s for us to leave alone. During any given day, a leader may encounter many issues and challenges requiring attention. Leadership isn’t about being responsible for (responding to) everything; it’s about putting energy into responding well to the right things.

Response-ability is having a range of responses and the ability to select and employ the appropriate one (or two or three!) for a given situation. Recognizing our range of response-abilities can be helpful when navigating uncertainty that falls within our responsibilities. We can pull response-abilities from many aspects of our leadership identities including, but not limited to, our strengths, skills, conflict resolution responses, and communication styles. Our range of responses increases as we become aware of who we are and what we bring to our roles.

Ideas for Consideration

  1. Each day, make space to clearly define your role for that day. This may seem redundant, but in seasons of uncertainty, we may need to re-clarify our daily roles as priorities shift.
  2. List what you are and are not responsible for. Compare the lists side by side. What areas need more attention on the responsible for list? What areas on the not responsible for list need less of your time and energy (if any of your energy at all!)?
  3. Pick an unresolved challenge within your responsibilities. Draft a list of possible responses considering key aspects of your leadership style. Include, “doing nothing,” as a possible response. This is like the free space on a bingo card. Leaders can always choose to do nothing; while this may generate a negative internal response, it may prompt reflection on why doing nothing is a bad idea and lead to other creative ways to respond.
  4. Select a few responses from #3 and consider the impact and outcomes of each response. Choose wisely and choose thoughtfully.

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