With great responsibility comes great power
Leadership Coach, Front of Room Leader and Systemic Change Guide

We all know the quote: “With great power comes great responsibility.”Up until now I would have traced it back to some famous philosopher. Now, I challenge you to trace it back to its origin. It made me laugh today, when reading Mark Mansen’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.”

What really stopped me in my tracks immediately afterwards, was the effect of turning that sentence around by changing the order of the nouns. A simple manoeuvre, leading to a powerful transformation:

With great responsibility comes great power.

What this quote highlights for me is that when we shove responsibility for something that has gone wrong to our colleagues or boss, we disempower ourself.

Noone else takes our power. It is all of our own doing.

Think about your work place and where you are doing exactly that.
Oh, so you are the boss, and therefore this does not concern you? Think again!

It doesn’t matter if that boss is a person, a board, or your company’s shareholders.

And this truth also applies to our personal relationships. Have some of those gone sour, or just unsatisfying? So what’s your responsibility in co-creating that?

We all blame others in frequent attempts to shove responsibility for our own experience elsewhere. But in fact we co-create everything in our worlds. And blaming others leads to nothing less than self chosen disempowerment. We all do it one way or another: I find this particularly hard to avoid when I am dissappointed in others who aren’t as reliable as I would hope they’d be.

But on the other side of blaming others is the exciting possibility of self-authorship. And coming back to work life, this makes me wonder why responsibility has such a bad reputation when self-authorship is something we collectively crave.

My answer to that is simple: taking responsibility creates the risk of being held accountable, and even made wrong for my choices!

Why then do some people like taking responsiblity?

I wonder what you make up about that.

Personally, when I have taken responsibility, I have always experienced how empowering it feels to throw the knapsack over the wall and let people know that something will be done. Or how I have deepened relationships by sharing what I really need and where I bump up against myself, and thereby taking responsibility for the quality of my relationships. When we take responsibility, all of a sudden, we get in touch with being powerful creators, able to make choices, rather than just reacting to what’s happening to us.

Nothing is more energizing than self-authorship.

And that’s why it’s so important to bring responsibility back into our organisations, as something positive and commendable. We need to have a conversation about the value of responsibility and accountability, and how to overcome the culture of blaming and shaming others in order to pave the way.

Only then can we reboot and create meaning through our work. Because for that we need everyone’s initiative and creativity.

In case you wonder: “With great power comes great responsibility” from Spider Man.

For leadership coaching and developement, get in touch

You might also like…

Making Difficult Conversations Easier
Making Difficult Conversations Easier

I was recently working with a group of Senior Researchers, Post-docs and Laboratory Managers from across Europe. The topic: difficult conversations. A popular topic for leaders, new and well seasoned. What makes a conversation difficult? That’s partially individual,...

Stop Downloading – Start Listening
Stop Downloading – Start Listening

I recently wrote about the challenges that leaders face when attempting to listen generatively. We spend too much time downloading (to reconfirm what we already know, i.e. not really listening) or listening factually (to confirm or disconfirm what you already know,...

Vows and Forgiveness
Vows and Forgiveness

David Whyte’s 1996 poem, All the True Vows, from The House of Belonging, calls us forth into the world. Its first line, “All the true vows are secret vows”, poses an inquiry for leaders: What are the secret vows you have sworn? These vows are no idle covenants. They...

Share This