One of the most exciting Super Bowl finishes in history deserves a short examination under the lens of leadership. There is a critical lesson we can all learn from the post-game responses from the Seattle Seahawks’ leadership.
Head Coach Pete Carroll has told the press the decision to call the play which led to the now-infamous interception was his responsibility. Carroll immediately stepped up and took responsibility as every leader should. But wait, Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson has also taken responsibility, stating he agreed with the play selection and believed – as the football left his hand – that a touchdown was imminent. Both Carroll and Wilson have taken responsibility for the decision-making and execution of the play.
As a leader, do you take responsibility for the strategic or tactical decisions you make when the execution of your plan is in the hands of others? As the leader on the field, do you take responsibility for the outcome of your execution of another person’s plan? I hope so, because that is what effective leaders do. In the public response by Carroll and Wilson, nobody is being thrown under the bus. Meanwhile, countless media pundits and fans will look for someone to blame, to chastise, to throw under the bus. (Maybe, simply, credit should be given to Patriots’ rookie Malcolm Butler for a brilliant interception.)
While the play-calling decision and execution in the final 30 seconds of the 2015 Super Bowl will be debated for years (and was made on the most visible stage imaginable), everyday the rest of us, as leaders, face situations and decisions that offer the opportunity to throw someone under the bus – or not. Self-protection by blaming, demeaning, or chastising others in public is the fastest way to lose your credibility as a leader. Don’t throw others under the bus. Taking responsibility for the failures of your team will enhance your leadership credibility; just be prepared to determine the cause of failure and work as a team to correct them for the future. Luckily, few of us have to make decisions and execute a plan, while being watched (and, ultimately, second-guessed) by millions of people. But the impact on our team members as a result of how we act as leaders is just as critical.
Your team will work hard knowing you will take responsibility in the tough times. They will work even harder when the decisions and execution lead to success, and you give them all of the credit.