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Authority and Responsibility

Posted by Seth Godin

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Jul 19, 2016

My dad taught me many things, insights that I use every single day.

One of the most important, and most difficult was also really simple: Authority and responsibility aren’t always paired together.

Authority sounds fabulous. Authority means you get to tell people what to do. It means you get instant respect, a crown that causes others to defer to you. “Didn’t you hear what I said,” “Don’t you know who I am,” and “Don’t talk to me that way” are three classic responses to insufficient respect in the face of authority.

The thing is, we don’t often get the authority we seek. At work, certainly, we crave the badge that will make other people do what we want, the ability to get things done our way, the right way, immediately.

Responsibility is a whole different game.

Responsibility is the willingness to take the blame. It’s where the buck stops. It’s the person who raises his hand when no one else will, and it’s the humility to own up.

Authority is given.

Responsibility is taken.

It’s quite difficult to get someone to give you authority, and even those who have it believe that they don’t have enough. There’s always a struggle to create more compliance, to garner more instant apparent respect, to get people to jump when you say jump.

But responsibility?

Responsibility is there for the taking. It’s yours if you want it, if you can handle it, if you’re man enough, father enough, human enough to say, “I got this,” without excuses.

As you’ve probably guessed, fatherhood is completely and totally, 100%, about responsibility.

And, if you’re responsible enough, sometimes you get authority.

I lost my dad last year, and I miss him every day. The example he set for my sisters and me continues to this day. I think he’d be pleased to know that you’ve taken a moment to think about his lesson as well.

Thanks for stepping up. 

This post is from Seth Godin. Seth is the author of 18 books that have been bestsellers. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. You might be familiar with his books Linchpin, Tribes, The Dip and Purple Cow. His blog is one of the most popular in the world. His newest book, What To Do When It's Your Turn, is already a bestseller.

Topics: Tips & Tricks

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