Too often people, whether they are in leadership positions or not, refuse to be accountable and take responsibility for their lives, their actions, and their words. We live in a society that encourages and enables blaming everyone and everything else for issues, problems, and mistakes in our lives. This behavior (trait) is called the blame game. Its presence can be seen pervasively everywhere – globally, organizationally, and personally – we look around us.

When people in leadership positions (and this is increasingly the rule rather than the exception) resort to the blame game, the results can be devastating, destructive, and even fatal (I am working on an upcoming post about the past and present unquintessential leadership at General Motors that includes the blame game as one component). malaysian airlines MH17 attack Ukraine unquintessential leadership

The blame game involves a complex web of lies those who employ it tell themselves. While we won’t discuss all the lies involved, we will discuss the two that seem to weigh the most heavily in the blame game.

The first lie is that we are passive victims of our circumstances and we have no power over changing them. As we discussed in “Quintessential Leadership Practically Applied: If Things Aren’t Working, Then Change Them,” none of us are passive observers and participants in our lives.

Each of us has the ability and the responsibility to take action when issues, problems, and mistakes occur. That is the accountability trait of building trust and being trustworthy.

The second lie is that our actions (or words) are the result of others’ actions (words (i.e., “if they didn’t do/say that, I wouldn’t be doing/saying this”). This is the ultimate cop-out. Our actions and words should never be based on what others do and say or don’t do and say. They should instead be based on our core: character, integrity, and principles that are absolute, moral, and right, no matter what.

To see a current example of the unquintessential leader trait of the blame game, we need to look no further than Russian President Vladimir Putin’s response to the surface-to-air missile attack yesterday (July 17, 2014) on Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine that resulted in the death of all 295 passengers and crew members on the plane:

Russian President Vladimir Putin“Undoubtedly, the government in whose air space this happened bears responsibility for this terrible tragedy” and “this tragedy would not have happened if there were peace in this land, or in any case, if [Kiev] had not renewed hostilities in south-eastern Ukraine.”

Essentially, President Putin is blaming the Ukrainians who want to maintain their independence from Russian for the attack and deaths of MH17’s passengers and crew.

But the reason there is no peace in Ukraine is because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, aided by pro-Russian Ukrainians, forcing independent Ukrainians to protect their land and their independence.

In other words, there would be peace (as relative as the term “peace” is on a planet that is strongly disposed to war at the slightest provocation) in Ukraine if the Russians had not broken the peace.

Additionally, data and research into the missile attack has revealed that the missile was provided by the Russians to the pro-Russian Ukranians who launched the attack. While the attack was happening, the pro-Russian Ukranians were in contact with the Russian military (there have been several other downed flights in that air space this past week, but none of the other planes were civilian) and had their approval.

So instead of President Putin manning up (the blame game is a coward’s game) and taking responsibility for the attack (in terms of war, it was a mistake, because they had no way of knowing whether they were attacking a military plane or a civilian plane), he shows his unquintessential leadership by putting all the blame on the Ukrainians who were forced into fighting for their independence by President Putin’s and the Russian military’s action against Ukraine earliest this year.

So, the question for us, fellow quintessential leaders, is are we consistently accountable and take responsibility for the issues, problems, and mistakes in our lives (and that sometimes we alone cause and make), or do we, if not all the time, from time to time, exhibit the unquintessential leader trait of playing the blame game?

How are we doing?

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