Three Rings of
Never before has
it been more obvious
that the world needs new leaders. In this increasingly global
economy, where one’s actions, or inaction, can potentially impact
people on the other side of the globe, this has never been more
apparent. Individuals are needed who have the willingness to make
things better for everyone.
But before anyone can change the world, you have to change
the circumstances in your immediate sphere of influence.
To do that, the ability to connect with other people becomes
important. First however, you have to understand who you really
are. And you can’t do any of these things until you begin to take
responsibility for yourself and your part in the world. If you want
to create change in your businesses, your community or yourself, you
have to be willing to let the buck stop with you.
There are three rings of responsibility, all of which must be
addressed before change of any kind can take place: Personal,
Proximal, and Social.
requires introspection. You have to take responsibility for
yourself, your actions and what you accomplish in your life. You
have to know who you are and what you value.
When you take personal responsibility, you create worthy
goals and are able to act on those goals, becoming the best you can
be and creating the ability to help others in the process.
Responsibility means not blaming yourself or others for your
mistakes. When you fail, you acknowledge your failures, assess what
you did right and what you did wrong, and then move on to create new
Taking responsibility means being open to new ideas, open to
other people, open to the world and your part in it. Responsible
people don’t always expect to succeed and they aren’t afraid to
fail. They simply understand that results require work. Responsible
people accept life’s rewards and its difficulties with grace.
means taking responsibility to support your boss, co-workers and
subordinates by giving them honest feedback, sharing information,
encouraging them when their actions positively affect you or your
organization, and holding them accountable when that effect is
When reaching out to others seems like too much work, or it
feels embarrassing or intrusive, it’s tempting to just say, “It’s
not my job.” It’s true, none of us is personally responsible for
what other people do or what happens to them, unless something you
do directly helps, hurts, or hinders them in some way.
However, companies can’t survive or thrive unless employees
help and support each other. If co-workers don’t reach out to help
others, they, in turn, won’t get the help they need at crucial
moments. When colleagues reach out to help other employees, another
link is added to the strong chain that’s needed to build the kind of
organization that benefits us all.
is built on interlocking relationships in which everyone takes
responsibility for each other as a group. A person who takes action
to make a difference in her department, division or the organization
as a whole understands that the changes she brings about will
ultimately trickle down to one person. That person could be a
customer, subordinate, or even herself. She knows that by reaching
out to affect the greater good she strengthens the bonds that tie
all stakeholders together, increasing the organization’s chances to
not only survive but to thrive and be successful.
Social responsibility means looking at the issues that affect
individuals and, rather than complaining or assigning blame, asking
what can be done to turn those issues around, not just for yourself
but for the entire organization.
People who take social responsibility seriously understand
that everything they do or fail to do affects everyone else. When
you make positive contributions for the greater good, you make it
easier for others to be productive and successful. And that means
it’s likely you’ll also make positive contributions to the
organization, improving everyone’s chances for success. But when all
you do is constantly complain you make the workplace a little worse
To be clear, if you really want to change yourself and your
world, you must approach it from all three rings of responsibility
because none of the rings works well without the other two.
It’s true, of course, that if everyone took some personal
responsibility, there would be less need for people to take on
social responsibility. But how long do you think you’d be sitting
around waiting for everyone to step up to the plate? How far has
that kind of thinking gone to changing your organizations and our
world so far?
The simple fact is when stronger people take social
responsibility, it becomes easier for those weaker to take personal
responsibility. If you have the talent and strength to take on
social responsibility to help turn around your organization, then
you have the responsibility to use that talent and strength to do
So individual responsibility becomes social responsibility
and social responsibility becomes individual responsibility. And
proximal responsibility is the glue that holds it all together.
It’s easier for groups and individuals to relate to each
other, for social responsibility to intersect with individual
responsibility, when it is all connected through the lens of
one-to-one relationships. When you are accountable to others and for
others, you strengthen your identity as an individual while also
strengthening your ties to the group.
At some point, every failure of government, every financial
debacle in the business world, every rift in families can usually be
traced back to one person’s failure to take responsibility for his
or her part in a problem, or its solution.
Taking responsibility for your life and your actions is the
foundation that must be established before beginning to take on the
proximal responsibility of helping others. As a result, you will
gain the skills necessary to take on greater social responsibility.
This is how responsibility works. This is how successful
organizations work, when they do work.
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Danita Johnson Hughes,
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