In Brilliant Manoeuvres: How to Use Military Wisdom to Win Business Battles, I wrote, “You can’t be a leader if you’re afraid to seek and accept responsibility. By definition, a leader is in front, which implies a willingess to accept responsibility and be accountable for his or her decisions and actions, as well as those of the people he or she is leading.”

As Obama is currently wondering what actions to take about Syria, I feel we are facing one of the great failings of leadership in the last decade. One of the things I learned in commanding troops on peacekeeping duty is that you have to say what you mean, and mean what you say. Consistently. Words have to be carefully weighed, but threats and promises must be kept. By flip-flopping so many times on the issue of retaliation for Assad’s use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war, Obama has shown himself incapable of accepting the difficult responsibilities of the office of commander-in-chief of the US armed forces. I’m not saying he should attack or not attack, but he seems completely incapable of accepting the responsibility that goes with the decision. Either way, own up to your ethical responsibilities as leader; say what you mean, and mean what you say.

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

© 2013 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

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