Practical insights for leaders

Are You Too Responsible?

Well-intended leaders being ‘too responsible’ is something I frequently come across. This is when the positive leadership trait of responsibility is overplayed, and a person finds themselves taking ownership of others’ tasks, emotions, mistakes, and problems.  Overly responsible leaders can feel consistently overloaded, secretly resentful, and leave others feeling disempowered.  For more on how to identify – and address – this phenomenon,  read on. 


READ: Are You Too Responsible | HBR | Dina Denham Smith (9 mins)

This excellent short HBR article by Denham Smith is a must-read for people who have an overactive sense of responsibility.  

What are the warning signs? You often pay attention to the needs of others but neglect your own; You frequently remind others what needs to be done and get annoyed by how irresponsible they seem; Or if something goes wrong, you feel the entire weight of that outcome. 

Over-responsibility can be a hard habit to break. Helping others makes us feel good; we feel competent, reduce our stress, and avoid conflict. This habit also gets reinforced by those around you, who learn to depend on you. But ultimately, it leads to burnout and unhealthy team dynamics. Read the article for practical strategies to find a more appropriate balance.


If you have identified that you may be overly responsible, ask yourself the following questions* (*bonus points for writing your responses down!).
 –  When is your approach to responsibility unhelpful?
 –  When does it start to affect relationships? 
 –   If a task is another person’s responsibility, what is it like for them when you try to take it? 


What is one small step you can take this week to ensure a more healthy ‘responsibility’ balance?