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  • Writer's pictureMichael Padilla-Pagan Pay

Leaders Must Be in the Line of Fire: Taking Responsibility



Picture this: You're at a bustling restaurant in Cairo Airport, eagerly anticipating your meal before catching a flight. Suddenly, chaos ensues as the credit card machine malfunctions. You find yourself caught between a server struggling to assist and a seemingly indifferent manager. This incident, which I experienced firsthand, serves as a poignant example of leadership's pivotal role in taking responsibility.


The Cairo Airport Restaurant Incident


At noon, with the restaurant teeming with customers from around the world, the credit card machine abruptly stopped working. Many, myself included, lacked sufficient pounds and dollars to cover the bill. The server's suggestion was to wait for the system to come back online in 30 minutes, an impractical solution for travelers with impending flights.


What ensued was a frustrating back-and-forth between the young waiter and his manager, who remained passive and detached throughout the ordeal. As an observer, I was appalled by the manager's lack of support and leadership in addressing the situation, an experience that sadly mirrors numerous leadership failures.


Why Leaders Should Step In:


  • Taking Responsibility: As leaders, we must stand front and center, accepting accountability when things go awry. By doing so, we garner respect from customers and transform employees into problem solvers. While exceptions may exist, most situations should be owned by the leader.


  • Teaching Opportunity: Leadership involves mentoring the next generation. Displaying how to tackle challenging situations sets an example. Share your approach and rationale with your team to cultivate their leadership skills.


  • Learning Opportunity: Humility and receptiveness to tough feedback are essential for growth. Customer complaints offer chances for personal development and remind us that the customer's perspective matters.


  • Avoid Blame: Resist the urge to blame employees, even when tasks are executed poorly. Instead, provide constructive feedback and search for underlying issues.


  • Avoid Weakness Projection: Leaders should project strength and confidence. Hiding behind employees instead of taking charge can inadvertently project weakness.


In conclusion, effective leadership necessitates stepping into the line of fire, assuming responsibility, and guiding the team toward resolution.


The incident at Cairo Airport is a stark reminder of the consequences of leadership failure.


Embrace accountability, mentor future leaders, and turn challenges into opportunities for growth.


By doing so, you'll not only improve your leadership but also contribute to the success of your organization.


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