True Responsibility

“She possesses qualities which I—and I suspect the majority of my readers—wish we, and especially our leaders, possessed. The greatest of those is that Honor Harrington takes responsibility for her actions, yes, but it goes further than that, because she assumes the responsibility of fixing other people’s problems, not because anyone else would have expected or demanded that she fix them. She fixes them because that’s what responsible adults do.”

These words appear in the Afterword of Uncompromising Honor, a science fiction book written by David Weber.  Weber is offering his thoughts on why the saga of Honor Harrington and her rise through the military ranks has such an enthusiastic and loyal following.

Having just finished reading the book, the 19th in the series, (the first, On Basilisk Station, was published in 1993), these words about responsibility jumped out at me. There are countless articles, lectures and books on the subject of responsibility, and its complement, accountability, but they tend to suggest a definition that is self-referential. You need to be responsible, to take accountability for what you agree to do.

What Weber describes is something more substantial. His character embodies responsibility by going beyond what she has been assigned to do or agreed to do and takes responsibility for other problems she encounters.

Greta Thunberg, the 15-year-old Swedish environmentalist and real-life hero knows about this kind of responsibility. Not only does she worry about the monumental problem of climate change, she has taken on the task of ensuring something is done about it no matter who stands in her way. Watch her in action at the UN.

What more could we achieve as leaders in business—and in politics–if more of us took responsibility for not only getting our tasks completed but also for fixing the problems we notice daily.

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