Counterinsurgency Series

Ownership: The Antidote to Your Excuses

When we make excuses, we are desperately trying to relieve ourselves of responsibility. Either we actually believe that, It’s not our fault, or we are trying to avoid the consequences of our actions.

However, making excuses is an insidious plot to shift blame to another person. When something goes wrong, and it’s not your fault, you are saying it is clearly someone else’s fault.

That line of thinking is a virus in any organization, whether it is the body or a business, or in a relationship. Why is it a virus? Because making excuses i.e. blaming others is a process which replicates itself up and down a chain of command, and across a society.

Eventually, the blame will settle upon a supposed privileged minority. This is exceptionally dangerous, as it results in a nation divided in itself. Once divided, a tyrant may seize control.

To be an effective leader, you must recognize that you cannot do it all yourself. You will need a team. A productive team requires excellent communication and accountability.


Objectively, a leader is accountable for their team, which means accountability compounds at every level of subordinate.

eg. The combat leader is accountable to his superior for his soldiers’ actions.

Yes, of course the soldiers are held accountable for their actions, but the effect compounds through the chain of command. The failure of the soldier is a reflection of their leader’s failure to communicate relevant information, which I refer to as the leader’s values.

The anti-virus for excuse-making is to take ownership at your proximity to responsibility. It does not matter whether you are directly in charge of the operation. It doesn’t matter if you are the soldier who fired the shot, the captain over him, the radioman, the logistical officer, or the Commander.

Where ever you are in the scenario, you should take ownership, which means taking blame. This does several things:

  1. As soon as you relieve others of the blame, it actually calls their attention to what they did wrong. Do not be surprised when someone else steps forward to shoulder part of the blame.
  2. Relieving your superior of the blame will cause them to be grateful for you looking out for them, and you will have made a friend in them.
  3. Relieving your subordinate of the blame will cause them to be more loyal to you, realizing that you value them and will not forsake them.
  4. It effectively identifies you as the person with the highest integrity. It takes a Man of extraordinary character to take responsibility.
  5. If you accept that you are responsible for your own weaknesses, you will be happier as you discover that you can improve.


Effective communication will result in fewer misunderstandings along the chain of command.

However, what I would like to focus on is communicating and sharing your values with those below you in the chain of command.

Ways to ensure that your values are shared among your subordinates:

  1. Remember that communication is always 2-way. Do not dictate to your team. Instead, provide the purpose for what you are trying to accomplish – people desire meaning.
  2. Make communication easy. Give someone your phone number instead of your email. Gather all members of the team into an instant-chat group.
  3. Spend quality time with subordinates – make the time you spend with them of high quality, regardless of the work involved.
  4. Lead by example before verbal coaching – many of your values and habits will be adopted quickly as they realize what is important to you.
  5. Celebrate wins and praise often.

Think of the nervous system’s role in an exercise. Consider how it communicates with the muscular system and promotes continual communication via neurological pathways. There cannot be any interference in the dialogue between the mind and muscle – they must be united in their mission.

I’ve said that your muscles do not know your goals, that they only know resistance and the need to overcome it. However, the peripheral nervous system gathers external information for the body, reaching beyond your nation’s borders.

Perhaps, because of this continual communication, the muscles do know your goals.

The question I leave with you is, Are you communicating effectively with those around you? Or are you catatonic? Are you progressing, or can you no longer see your Vision?

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