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Leader's Mindset: Playing the Blame Game vs. Owning Up


In today's competitive workplace, effective leadership is the cornerstone of organizational success. However, a common challenge many teams face is leaders who excel in pleasing superiors but tend to deflect responsibility when challenges arise. In this article, we delve into the subconscious mindset behind this behavior and explain how leaders can transition from avoiding responsibility to being accountable for their actions.

Key Points of this Article:

  • What is the underlying root of responsibility avoidance?

  • How can this behavior pattern be changed?

  • What benefits does the shift in leadership bring to the organization or team?

Understanding the Root of Responsibility Avoidance

In most cases, avoiding responsibility is not a conscious or intentional choice. It is not as if someone sits down and decides, "I want to shift blame onto others." Why is this not a logically intentional decision? Imagine telling your boss directly, "As a leader, you should take responsibility, but you always pass it on to others." Your boss is unlikely to agree and might respond with, "You're just a staff member; you don't understand the challenges leaders face. When I determine it's your mistake, you should admit and reflect on it." Therefore, logically, your boss doesn't consider it as avoiding responsibility, even if they are doing just that. This behavior is more like an automatic, rapid, habitual response stemming from the brain's fear center, known as the "fear loop."

The fear loop develops over time, reinforced from childhood to adulthood through various events. The deepest, ingrained fear in this loop is often the fear of being perceived as "not good enough" by managers. To avoid this perception, the subconscious creates various reasons or negative blame, shifting responsibility to others to prove it's not one's own fault and alleviating the subconscious fear.

In other words, responsibility avoidance is a "reaction" born out of inner fear, not a rational "response."

How to Change?

To change this behavior, it is crucial to recognize that, no matter how eloquent the reasons sound, the root of shifting responsibility to others comes from an inner fear.

Secondly, understand that, on the surface, avoiding responsibility may make one appear faultless to others, but it actually means losing the influence leaders can have.

Thirdly, realize that avoiding responsibility cannot build a strong team. Teams led by leaders who avoid responsibility often have low trust and a weak sense of security, leading to high turnover rates and subpar performance.

Once leaders grasp these points, it marks the beginning of change.

The method is simple: define unfavorable outcomes as "a stepping stone for doing better," avoid defining them as the "destination," and take maximum responsibility for every leadership task.

Benefits of Shifting from Avoiding to Embracing Responsibility

This shift brings numerous advantages, including:

  1. The transformation from fear to courage enhances decision-making and gradually breaks negative thought patterns, fostering a positive mindset.

  2. Embracing responsibility redirects the brain from proving others wrong to seeking better solutions, moving from a "survival" to a "creative" state. This positive transformation positively impacts the company you serve.

  3. When a leader takes responsibility, team members become more engaged, enhancing the leader's influence and overall performance.


The shift from avoiding to embracing responsibility is not just a behavioral change; it is a shift from fear to courage in mindset. This transformation not only boosts brain function but also establishes a work culture based on trust, commitment, and excellence.

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