What is a leader’s responsibility towards their employees? This question came up recently with a client who leads a start up business. Leading any start up is tough and everyone involved has to live with a high level of uncertainty. This leader felt a high level of responsibility for their employees. The success of the business would have a significant impact on the lives of them and their families. I completely understand this leader feeling the weight of responsibility but I’m not sure it was necessary.
I am reminded of a learning from one of my early coaches. I was talking about how I felt responsible for making my kids happy. She quickly challenged me. Do you think your kids have the ability to generate their own levels of happiness? Or do you think they are reliant on you? This stopped me in my tracks. I felt the weight of responsibility but was I responsible? Maybe not. This was an important insight for me and it is relevant to this leader’s situation.
An Employee’s Responsibility
Is the leader truly responsible for their employees? Did they force them to join the start up and is their success in the leader’s hands? They have the choice of whether to stay or to leave and find another position elsewhere. So what is this leader responsible for? They are responsible for creating the conditions that give their employees the best chance of succeeding. This includes things like creating a positive team culture, setting out a clear and engaging vision of success, and charting a strategy to achieve it.
These are things the leader can control. It is futile for them to try to control their employees level of personal satisfaction. This reminds me of a conversation I had with Ken Tomita, the founder of Grovemade. After trying to control what information his team received, Ken decided to share everything openly. He trusted his team to make the right decisions for themselves. It was a breakthrough and he hasn’t looked back.
What are you taking responsibility for?