Responsibility: The First Step of Learning

“After more than forty years leading and mentoring people, I have come to the conclusion that responsibility is the most important ability that a person can possess. Nothing happens to advance our potential until we step up and say, ‘I am responsible.’ If you don’t take responsibility, you give up control of your life.”


The statement above is how John Maxwell begins the chapter titled ‘Responsibility: The First Step of Learning’ in his recently published book, Sometimes You Win – Sometimes You Learn.


Maxwell’s statement is consistent with one of my most favorite sayings and philosophies of life, which is: IF IT’S TO BE, IT’S UP TO ME.


Without question, throughout your adult life and leadership, IF IT’S TO BE, IT IS UP TO YOU. This statement and philosophy does not minimize the impact of others and circumstances in our lives. We all are constantly challenged by people, events, and circumstances beyond our control. However, bottom line, IF IT’S TO BE, IT’S UP TO ME!


As humans and as leaders, each and every one of us are not only responsible, but will also be held accountable for the hundreds of choices we make each day. Those personal choices, and the results and ramifications of those choices, determine our lives, our accomplishments, our leadership, our success or lack of success, and our personal and professional legacies.


If we take personal responsibility for our choices, including our failures and successes, we can and will learn from them. As Maxwell writes, “If we bail out on our responsibly, we don’t examine our failures and don’t learn from them. As a result, we often experience the same failures and losses repeatedly over time.”


Near the end of the chapter titled ‘Responsibility: The First Step of Learning,’ Maxwell challenges all of us with this very powerful and personal statement:


“I may not like it, but I am responsible for who I am and where I am today. My present circumstances are a direct result of my past choices. My future will be the result of my current thoughts and actions. I am responsible, and so are you.”


Do you and your leadership exemplify, on a daily basis, responsibility and accountability? As a leader, do you consistently teach, coach, mentor and hold team members and colleagues responsible and accountable for their actions and what they do and don’t do? I hope so. This is one of the highest and most impactful levels of leadership.


If it’s to be, it’s up to me. And if it’s to be in your life and leadership, it’s up to you!



NielsenCopyright © 2014 by Dan Nielsen –

National Institute for Healthcare Leadership –

America’s Healthcare Leaders –


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