As a leader you know that at the end of the day what matters is what you deliver. Whether it is fair or not is open to debate. At the same time, being in a leadership role generally means that you are rewarded well for producing results.
When things are not going so well and you are feeling under a lot of pressure, it is tempting to try and deflect the attention away from you and to look to pass the buck to others. On the other hand, there are some big problems with adopting this strategy.
You lose trust
A huge part of your success as a leader comes down to your being able to win the trust of those who you lead and those who assess your performance. At the most senior levels in organisations those assessing your performance are not just internal stakeholders but also external stakeholders. These external stakeholders include analysts, the media, the public, customers and service users. If you are someone who is unwilling to take responsibility for what is and what is not achieved, you are going to find it difficult to retain trust. When that trust goes you can quickly find yourself on the slippery slope to the exit door.
You hear what people think you want to hear
This is a terrible situation in which to find yourself. You might not like what you hear and, at the same time, if you are aware that there is a problem or issue you can do something about it. When people manage the message they give you through fear or some other reason you are always only ever going to get half the story.
You are seen as weak
You might or might not be weak in reality but in my experience how you behave and act has a huge impact on how others view you. Sometimes the leader who is making plenty of mistakes, acknowledging them and still staying focused, can actually be much more successful in the longer term.
You give a message that it is okay to pass the buck
People model what they see others do and assume that this is what is required. Imagine you have a significant number of people around the organisation who are all passing the buck, looking for someone else to blame. What’s performance going to be like in that organisation? Probably pretty dire if we are totally honest about it. The reality is you set the tone by how you behave and act, so if you want an underperforming organisation just allow passing the buck to be the norm.
The Bottom Line: Passing the buck is never a good strategy when it comes to being a successful leader.