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31 Days to Becoming a Better Leader


Day #14: Roles & ResponsibilitiesRoles and Responsibilities

However you envisage your role in life, all you can do is perform it as best you can.

– Brian Aldiss

The price of greatness is responsibility. 

– Winston Churchill

It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. It makes more sense to hire smart people and train them enough so they start telling you what to do.

– Steve Jobs

Defining roles and responsibilities is key to understanding what individuals will do and accomplish inside any leadership container.

A role is not a job title and is certainly not the same as a responsibility. A role is a general nomenclature, and a responsibility is a specific results-based language. Roles come with responsibilities.

Job titles might come with a specific role. One person has a title, however several people might have the same, or similar, roles in the organization. It’s possible that several people have the same role, but a different discipline within that role – IT, design, analyst, etc.

Responsibilities define specific accomplishments or results. Individuals are responsible for their own outcomes and are mutually accountable to others on the team independently, with a mind on the interdependence of the work. One person’s accomplishments impact the work of others on the team. Even though each person is responsible on their own, there’s an impact on others in meeting or not meeting deadlines or other expectations of quality and/or quantity.

In the old model of a “Job Description,” the practice has become making a list of tasks to complete, which is a form of micromanaging. It’s better to define the results of the work than to define the activities intended to achieve results. It’s important for each person to utilize their specific skills in accomplishing their own personal deliverables.

Remembering the Steve Jobs quote at the top of this section, it’s important to empower team members to think on their own, using the best thinking skills, such as creative thinking, problem solving, cognition, memory, and originality. These are all parts of J L Guilford’s Structure of Intellect theory. We want to measure more than mere IQ.

Here’s the process:

  • Define the goals
  • Create skilled teams
  • Develop position descriptions
  • Define monthly milestones
  • Implement action planning
  • Teams create actions
  • Members are accountable
  • Measure progress weekly

You are the leader and not the doer. You define and manage process and lead people. Over-functioning by the leader (doing the action plans for them) results in under-functioning of teams.

Lead, and don’t do. That’s your role and responsibility, your duty and delight.


Next: Day #15 – Team Agreements

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