Off the Leaderboard

“Harry Truman’s folksy ‘The buck stops here’ is still as good a definition as any . . . of effective leadership”

–Peter Drucker, Managing for the Future

When BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, precipitating the worst oil spill in U.S. history, the company earned plaudits in some quarters for its response. Observers praised BP for taking responsibility. But last week, BP took a hit when its chief executive, Tony Hayward, appeared on Capitol Hill and turned into a model of evasiveness. He told lawmakers some variation of “I was not involved in that decision” no fewer than 10 times.

The way Peter Drucker saw things, accepting responsibility is one of the primary requirements of any leader. The best “see leadership as responsibility rather than as rank and privilege,” Drucker wrote. “Effective leaders are rarely ‘permissive.’ But when things go wrong—and they always do—they do not blame others. . . . An effective leader knows that he, and no one else, is ultimately responsible.”

In this edition of Drucker Apps, we invite you to join our conversation about accepting responsibility as a hallmark of leadership. Weighing in will be former Southwest and Braniff Airlines CEO Howard Putnam; Stanford University professor and author Jeffrey Pfeffer; and others with insights into effective leadership.

We open things up with this question: What leader have you read about or personally worked with who best exemplifies the buck-stops-here standard?