Self-Leadership: Choice and Responsibility

Self-Leadership: Choice and Responsibility

I think about self-leadership often. I connect its contributing role to leading others well and enabling collaboration. In my view, there are four distinctions that make self-leadership possible and effective. All four are needed. They are:

  • Perspective

  • Responsibility and Choice

  • Design

  • Action

This is the second in a series of five blogs.

Choice is a conscious decision, not an automatic, habitual behavior. Choices can shift the direction we take or the context within which we generate our interpretations. So much of what we do in life is shaped by our habits. Habits, by definition, are historical artifacts of over-learned practices. In a predictable world, our habits continue to ‘fit’ our world. However, in a changing world, including one where our commitments shift, our habits may be less effective and out of sync with a situation.

We exercise choice when we recognize the options before us as decision points and can consciously choose. Here’s an example. I recently coached a client - Brian. He was unhappy and complaining about not visiting his sick mother because he was working such long hours in his business. Upon discussion and reflection, he saw what he was previously blind to – he was the person who could allocate time to the things that mattered to him. In fact, he had a choice about where he wanted to allocate his time and energy.

Previously, he had been swept along by the demand of his work circumstances, blind to other possibilities. He was afraid of what he would miss. Through our conversations he learned he could recognize, consider and prioritize what was important to him. He could choose what was worthy of his time and consider the consequences. Now, Brian was a happy camper. He could see a path forward that could include making time to visit his mother.

Recognize, Consider and Prioritize

Responsibility is the complement to choice. Responsibility is the attitude we take about owning our actions, reactions and their consequences . In fact, it is our choice to be responsible for them. When we don’t take responsibility, we act as if we are simply spectators in our own lives. We are ruled by our circumstances and others commitments. When we act consistent with our choices and promises, we are acting with integrity. Actions consistent with our commitments and aligned with our own truth (integrity) are hallmarks of being responsible. By taking responsibility we organize ourselves to powerfully navigate our world, anticipate breakdowns and develop contingency plans.

A client of mine, Darlene, is an individual contributor for a professional services company and the key contributor on several mission-critical projects. One of her projects required a system-wide implementation. She received a request from an internal customer for a change that would provide a short-term ‘fix’ to an important feature.

Upon inspection and further reflection, she determined that to fulfill the customer request would inadvertently put the overall functionality of the system in jeopardy. On further research suggested a different approach to address the concern. She drafted a reply that recommended this approach and provided data and underlying rationale. The customer, although initially upset with Darlene for not following the request, concluded that she had gone above and beyond bringing the best thinking and solution for implementation.

Darlene saved the project, keeping it on track to completion. By taking full responsibility for her actions, she chose to move beyond simply being an order taker. Darlene was able to step back, view the project from a new perspective, ask intelligent questions to develop, creatively problem solve, then communicate her recommendations effectively to the satisfaction and delight of her customer.

Stepping back and thinking about yourself:

  • Where can you to interrupt your habitual ways of thinking and operating?

  • When can you take a step back and consciously consider the choice point in front of you?

  • Once you’ve chosen, can you act consistently with that choice and continue until the choice is fulfilled?

By looking with fresh eyes and being curious about what the options could be, it becomes easier to envision the likely consequences. Choosing to persist, to be resilient in your pursuit of excellence in your execution, and you can learn from everything along the way. There’s even space to enjoy your journey. Why not?

In the next blog of the series, I will discuss the distinction of Design. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts and experience about Choice and Responsibility in our continuing conversation on LinkedIn.

Image provided through UNSPLASH William Felker

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