What Dumb Leaders Do #11 – The Blame Shifter


What! Who stuffed up? What did they do? It wasn’t my fault. As long as they can’t blame me.

Sound familiar. You may have heard this in the workplace.

Let me introduce you to the Blame Shifter. The leader who always blames others and never accepts responsibility and accountability for the things that go wrong. It is always someone else’s fault. The Blame Shifter always finds an excuse why things haven’t gone their way, or they haven’t got the results that were required.

Looking for excuses does Dean the Dumb Leader. Ultra-disorganised, and spur of the moment, Dean simply cannot get his stuff together. He can’t remain focused and gets distracted easy. He is easy on his team and tries to be a friend with everyone. Dean has a lot of problems, highlighted every year at performance appraisal time.

At performance appraisal time, Dean spends a lot of energy looking for the excuses as to why he hasn’t done what he should have. He throws people under the bus, deflects the conversation onto other managers who he has perceived not to have achieved, the lack of support from his line manager all backed by a delusional belief that he has done everything possible in his role.

There is no doubt he is busy, just not on the key result areas.

Is everything possible? Without getting organised and focused, removing distractions and leading his team to a performance culture. Everything Dean does wrong, is driven by Dean. That’s why he needs excuses. Don’t be like Dean.

This is what Dean trots out!

“It’s the economy. No-one is buying”

“Our product needs an upgrade”

“I haven’t received the training I need”

“What about Jack, he has achieved less than me”

“I don’t have enough staff”

“You keep giving me more stuff to do”

“It’s the colour of the sky”

Of course, I jest about the last one, but at times when dealing with Dean, you sit back and wait for the excuses to roll. Putting more effort into excuses is simply a dumb thing to do for anybody, let along anyone who wishes to lead people. It’s everybody else’s fault, never Deans.

As a leader, if you fail to take ownership and accountability you will always be in the realms of the also-rans, the domain of the deluded and the lower end of the bell curve.  Results and career will go unrealized.  If you’re lucky you may be able to be graded as “solid”.

The good news is that when Dean gets tired from living on a wing and a prayer, there are avenues for him to improve. And he would be advised to start with these three tips.

  1. Look for unfiltered feedback. This is challenging on two fronts. The receiving of the feedback and also the fact that most people will not give unfiltered feedback. I saw a report recently from a business guru who challenged people to look for that one person in ten who will give you the unfiltered feedback you need. While that may be true in most organisations, there is a different perspective. David Rock from the Neuro-Leadership Institute tells is the creation of a feedback and performance culture comes together when people actively seek feedback. Seriously, it is how you seek feedback that makes the biggest difference. When a leader is courageous enough to seek feedback and lead the discussion with the specifics on what they want feedback on, it helps them get the feedback they need. Don’t be general, be specific.
  2. Follow the clues of success – seek out a mentor in your organisation, one that is winning. Observe and challenge yourself to see the things they are doing. Too often you may look at them and use words like favourites, or brown nose. Look to see how they organise their day, what they prioritise and how they deliver. Be objective, not subjective and then follow the clues of success.
  3. Practice Above the Line Leadership. When leaders operate below the line, they live in the world of blame, excuses, and denial. They refuse to accept their role in their performance. Operating above the line sees leaders operating with ownership, accountability and responsibility.

Being a dumb leader is a choice and so is being a better leader. What can you do to improve your leadership skills?

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