Taking Responsibility in a New Leadership Role

Taking Control of Your Accountabilities

Woman looking through magnifying glass

As a leader, you're responsible for ensuring that your organization does the right things.

© iStockphoto/SochAnam

Sarah has just been appointed CEO of her organization, and she's feeling excited but anxious.

The realities of her new job have hit home. She is no longer simply in charge of making plans and reaching targets. She is now responsible for making sure that her organization is doing what it's meant to do, and for ensuring that the people within it are doing the right things, in the right way.

That's a lot to be accountable for. So, how can she make sure that everything is OK?

In this article, we'll look how you can be truly responsible for your organization's work, right from the start.


We focus on new organizational leaders in this article. However, you can also follow some of these steps if you're new to a departmental or team leader role.

What is Responsibility?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines being responsible as being "liable to be called to account."

As a leader, you're responsible for everything that happens in your organization, and you'll quite rightly be held accountable for everything that happens, good or bad.

You need to question the decisions and processes that hold your organization together, and the consequences of not doing this can be severe. It's no excuse to say that you didn't know what was going on, or that you weren't personally involved – the buck stops with you.

New leaders are especially vulnerable to being caught out by difficult situations. They may inherit dysfunctional structures and procedures, or simply be too overwhelmed by the pressures of a new role to know what to question. This is particularly true of new leaders who are promoted from within: they may make assumptions about their organization based on their previous roles, they may feel loyal to previous leaders' decisions, and they may fail to see the "bigger picture" that a leader needs.

Full responsibility is an enormous challenge to take on, and it can feel overwhelming. However, leaders who plan for this responsibility right from the start (that is, when they accept the job) have a far greater chance of success than those who take a more "laissez-faire  " approach.


Within this article, we'll focus on moving into a new role. However, taking responsibility is an ongoing process, and you should think about these steps as often as you feel necessary.

How to Take Responsibility

To fulfill your obligations as a leader and to be fully responsible for your organization's actions, you need to build an accurate understanding of the organization, and of what's going on within it.

Follow the steps below to build and maintain this.

1. Understand and Confirm Your Organization's Mission

Your first step is to re-examine what your organization aims to do. Of course, it will have a mission statement and other documents that outline its remit, and you should look at these as your first step.

However, it pays to reflect on...

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