The Mirror Test

by  Tal Shnall  |  Leadership Development

If you want to be successful leader, you have to take 100% responsibility for everything that happens in your life. This includes your accomplishments, the results you produce, the quality of your relationships, your company’s successes and challenges. This is not easy for many people.

Most of us have been conditioned to blame something outside of ourselves for the parts of our life we don’t like. We blame our parents, our bosses, our friends, the president, co-workers, the economy, or anything we can pin the blame on. We don’t have the courage to look at where the real problem is—ourselves.

There is only one person responsible for the quality of the life you live. That person is you. Taking one hundred percent responsibility means that you acknowledge that you create everything that happens to you. If you are really interested in improving your life as a leader, then you will have to give up blaming and complaining.

So what can you do to take responsibility and become a great leader of your life?

Look at the person in the mirror – You can’t expect your followers to change their attitudes while you stay mired in your old blame-based approach. You had to begin with yourself. Ask the tough questions. The courageous questions of your leadership will reveal most fully in the questions you ask regarding performance.

It takes courage to face ourselves. It takes courage to see the real you even when things are not going well. By accepting what you see and feel about yourself as a person is a beginning toward a positive change. If you are still focused on blaming and complaining, you are not moving forward.

Leaders who are focused on blaming and complaining are giving someone else the power to change the circumstances of their life. When you begin to turn the finger back to you, it feels a bit strange but a true leader is comfortable with accepting full responsibility and owning the problems.

This exercise of looking in the mirror can be daunting and sometimes un-motivating to some but very powerful and enlightening.  Why do I say powerful?

It’s powerful because of the realization that we can’t change the past, but we can change the future. It’s also an honest realization that we are not here to change anyone but ourselves.  If you find yourself beginning to complain about everything but the choices you’ve made, then you need to take a step back. See if you can stop blaming outside factors for your results.

Successful leaders don’t waste their time and energy blaming and complaining. They evaluate their own experiences and decide if they need to change them or not. They face the mirror as uncomfortable as it may be and take risks in order to create the results they want.

 Face the truth and take action-You have to be willing to change your behavior if you want different results. You have to be willing to take the necessary action to get what you want. If you’ve already taken an initial step in the right direction, now’s the time to plan additional steps to keep moving you forward, with positive momentum.

Successful leaders commit to taking 100% responsibility for every aspect of their lives. They decide to make changes, one step at a time. But once that decision is made, it will make a powerful impact in every area of your life.


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What People Are Saying

Deb Costello  |  29 Jan 2014  |  Reply

Thank you for your contributions to the LeadChange blog, Tal. After I read this piece I looked at your profile and noticed you have done a lot of writing for the blog. It is important that we have many leadership voices out there helping move the conversation forward.

As I read your piece, I was struck by how hard it sounds. “There is only one person responsible for the quality of the life you live. That person is you.” This seems overly simplistic. Everything in life is a complex combination of genetics, personal action, and outside forces. Perhaps this is just a matter of semantics, but I disagree with your 100%. We are not always responsible for the quality of our lives. Life sometimes deals us bad hands, and our interactions with others are not always controllable.

What I think we are responsible for is our reaction to the hand we are dealt. Every scenario, both good and bad, gives us choices and those choices have consequences. I think what you are getting at is that we need to own the consequences of our choices as best we can, even though some consequences are also unanticipated and uncontrollable.

The reason that I even care about this is because I believe effective leadership is a complex interaction of competence, creativity, character, and compassion. This piece is about leader with character, about holding the self to the highest possible standards. This is indeed an important part of leadership. But by doing so, I hope that also gives us the strength to treat others with compassion. What worries me is that because a leader is strong, everyone is also expected to live to those exacting standards, regardless of the situation. Perhaps this is the means to achieve the highest financial profit, but I also hope that same strength of character empowers the leader to act with compassion and humanity.

I know your post is designed to help people take action, to empower them to make different choices, but implicit in it is judgement and blame, I would suggest, as you do, that we’ve already spent way too much time on judgement. Our leaders can make a difference not only by living their own lives well, but also by having compassion and patience for those who not quite as strong, not quite as blessed, not quite as able, not quite ready.

Saleem al muslim  |  30 Jan 2014  |  Reply

I agree with you that Successful leaders commit to taking 100% responsibility for every aspect of their lives. They decide to make changes, one step at a time. But once that decision is made, it will make a powerful impact in every area of your life.
This responsibility may include targets involving large boldness and high risk

Ryan  |  01 Feb 2014  |  Reply

So true. Thanks for the article. Truth penetrates the human spirit.

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