If you can push away decisions that aren’t yours, give away all the credit to the team, and take all the blame, you can lead (Maxwell, 1998).

Leaders push decisions down to the right person at the right level. They don’t pull them up or want them sent up unless they are truly exceptional (e.g., major long term organizational commitment, very expensive, serious legal/regulatory/political ramifications, irreversible, nothing in our policies or culture helps informs those at lower levels how to proceed, someone could be hurt or killed, or the organization could be badly damaged). 98-99% of what occurs in the organization each day is already covered by policy, procedure, training, competence, culture, etc., and need never be pushed up or pulled up to senior management. Senior leadership only handles the exceptional (Abrashoff, 2002).

People learn how to make decisions by making decisions. Letting them make decisions they should be making will not bankrupt the city or the company. Taking the decision they should make away from them stops their growth, hurts morale, undermines culture and teamwork, and undercuts efficiency and productivity.  Give freedom within the guardrails and never micromanage. Let others decide. If you have recruited, hired, trained, evaluated, and promoted the right people, they will make a lot of good decisions (Abrashoff, 2002).

Leaders give away all the credit. Your job is to shine all the positive attention toward and on your team for their success or achievement. You don’t want or seek any applause, award, honor, or recognition. It is all focused on your team. They did the work. They made it happen. Recognize and reward them. Celebrate them (Welch, 2009).

Leaders take all the blame even if you personally did not do it. If it happened on your watch, you are responsible. Mistakes will happen. If your team is doing their jobs and making decisions, there will be mistakes. They are normal, natural, and expected. They are the price of progress, innovation, and success. Never push your team under the bus. You immediately and genuinely admit the mistake, share all the bad news at once, apologize, make amends, and implement changes so it does not repeat. You step up to the microphone. You own it. Far from looking bad, you will look good (Abrashoff, 2002).

Stand behind your team when they do right and stand in front of them when they make a mistake. This earns their respect and loyalty. This reinforces the right culture – we don’t push others under the bus to avoid looking bad. President Truman was right when he said, “The buck stops here.”

Most leadership failures can be attributed to the inability to let others make decisions when they should, seeking all the glory for themselves, and blaming others instead of accepting responsibility (Maxwell, 1998).

If you let others make the decisions they should, give them all the credit for their accomplishments, and embrace the inevitable mistakes that occur as your own, you will be the leader that people want to follow.