Ownership or excuses.  One is the mark of a leader.  The other is a sign that I am bound for mediocrity and failure.  In the long run, people who make excuses stall out.

Making excuses is a habit.  I wrote about how West Point deals with this habit in West Point:  How Leaders Seize Accountability.  But what are the results for me if I habitually make excuses?

Who Owns It!


If I am in the habit of making excuses, people will not trust me.  That is bad for anyone.  But, for a leader it is deadly.

There are lots of ways a I can lose the trust of the people I lead.  But, consistently making excuses for my behaviors or for the actions of the people on my team fosters a culture where no one is accountable.


Every time I choose to make a choice to avoid responsibility for my actions, it becomes easier to do again in the future.  This is how habits are formed.

Shirking responsibility is a cowardly act.  Each time I do it, I am closer to making cowardice a part of who I am.  If that becomes a habit, few people will respect me, let alone follow me.


Every time I avoid the consequences of my actions, I miss an opportunity to grow.  Growth comes when I learn from my mistakes.

By making an excuse I have pushed responsibility away from me and on to something or someone else.  What is my incentive to grow?  That is why people who make excuses often never reach the next level.

3 Words That Prove I Own My Actions

It’s My Fault.

These are simple words to say alone.  But, if you are like me, they can get caught in my throat when it is time for me to truly step forward and seize ownership.

Personal accountability is hard.

  • It takes courage to let the people I follow know  – “Its my fault.”
  • It takes courage to let the people I lead know – “It’s my fault.”
  • It takes courage to let the people I love know – “It’s my fault.”

If I think hard and try to remember hearing these simple words at work, I realize how rare accountability really is.  I worked hard to break the excuse habit at work.  The scary thing is, I realize I still have a problem with that at home.

The Bottom Line:

When I am in the habit of making excuses it bleeds into all areas of my life.  At work, at home, or with friends excuses are part of the fabric of my relationships.  The more excuses I choose to include in those relationships, the weaker those relationships are. 

By seizing responsibility instead of making excuses, I will build trust with others.  Courage will be one of my character traits.  And, I will be characterized by consistent growth as a person and as a leader.

It’s My Fault

Those three words are rare in our day and age.  They are as rare from adults as they are from children.  Maybe if adults took ownership instead of making excuses, our kids would do the same thing.  Is there any doubt our children follow what we model more than what we say?


What excuses do you need to stop making?