A couple months back I preached a sermon about Cain and Abel in which I suggested Cain's problem was that he looked out the window to point out his brother's deficiencies rather than looking in the mirror and taking personal responsibility for his own. We all do that, I think, to some extent. It is easier to look out the window than in the mirror. Less self-confrontational. It enables us to avoid facing the harsh reality that we need to change.
The window / mirror concept comes from Jim Collins' book, Good to Great. Collins teaches that "level five leaders," that rare breed of individuals that reach the pinnacle of leadership, have mastered this concept. When looking to assign credit they look out the window. When looking to assign blame, they look in the mirror. That is real leadership, says Collins.
By comparison, leaders who were in charge of companies that failed, ". . . did just the opposite. They'd look out the window for something or someone outside themselves to blame for poor results, but would preen in front of the mirror and credit themselves when things went well."
Consider then, Collins comments in light of the blame being either accepted or deflected by the men and women who lead us in Washington:
Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi
According to The Hill, "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when asked Tuesday whether Democrats bear some of the responsibility regarding the current crisis on Wall Street, had a one-word answer: 'No.'" Apparently there are no mirrors in her office.
Republican Presidential Nominee, John McCain
McCain comes a little closer to getting it right. At a Florida rally, McCain said, "As for the Congress, members in both parties must accept a share of the responsibility." According to the AP McCain said, "America is in a crisis today . . . The economic crisis is not the fault of the American people. Our workers are the most innovative, the hardest working, the best skilled, the most productive, the most competitive in the world. ... But they are being threatened today ... because of greed and corruption that some engaged in on Wall Street and we have got to fix it."
Democratic Presidential Nominee, Barack Obama
U.S. News and World Report writes, "Democratic nominee Barack Obama in a statement called it 'the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression.' He laid the blame squarely on the policies of the Bush Administration, and suggested his Republican rival, John McCain, would provide more of the same."
Real leaders man up and accept their share of the blame. Congress is responsible, and that includes Senators McCain and Obama. President Bush is culpable. Wall Street shares some of the blame. I am partly responsible for contributing to the problem by buying into the buy-now-pay-later culture.
You'll hear a lot of talk over the next few weeks about "blame isn't productive, let's focus on a solution." Well, the first step in finding a solution is recognizing my share of the blame. Real leaders do that. Hopefully one will reveal himself so we can elect him in November.