I don’t know when it happened, but we’ve started confusing authority with responsibility. Specifically, we assume that unless we have authority granted to us by someone higher up the ladder, we can’t take responsibility for what’s happening around us.
This reality was driven home as I watched the always-inspiring Seth Godin tell an audience why they should want more responsibility, not authority.
Now Seth’s points were focused more on someone working in an office with a boss. However, I think his advice to pursue responsibility is something that more than one entrepreneur has overlooked in favor of authority.
What do I mean by that?
A few years ago, I had a conversation with a young entrepreneur. Despite his age, he’d been in business for almost ten years. By any measure he was successful, but something really bothered him: His employees had more time off than he did.
After he finished telling me how unfair it was that he worked more than his employees, I told him I had an easy way to fix his problems. Just get a job working for someone else, then you can have more vacation time.
This entrepreneur had confused authority and responsibility. He assumed that as the owner of the business his authority as the owner should come with some perks, and it did. However, he overlooked the reality that as the business owner he had the ultimate responsibility for running the business.
This confusion trips up even the smartest entrepreneurs. After all, they’re in charge. They run the show. But it usually takes an angry customer or missing an important project deadline to drive home that while authority may feel good, taking responsibility is what puts money in the bank.
Have you ever confused authority and responsibility? How did you figure out the difference?