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She was not an imposing figure, but she demanded respect.  Judy Childress was the varsity choral director of my high school.  She had sharp and wild eyes; the kind you get from a lifetime of artistic opportunity.  She was incredible at harnessing the talent of her students and her community.  Judy was a tenured and talented teacher that was respected across the board as a person who could get things done.   I was scared of her…

I cannot remember why I was late or what I was doing, but I remember what happened on that stage….  It was during a musical rehearsal.  I was running late and I strolled across the stage.  At the time, I was too cocky, overly self assured and thought I had the world figured out.  I was 17 and needed a push.

There were at least 30 people at the rehearsal and I was sure that I had the clout to walk in late and not get called out.  I was wrong.  “ANDY!”  Judy Childless was behind the piano at the left of the stage.  She had waited until I was in dead center stage.  The entire chorus was sitting on the front two rows of the auditorium.  It was an audience..  an audience to watch what was to become my most public dress down.

I turned to see Mrs. Childress walk from behind the piano.  “What gives you the right to show up 20 minutes late?”  She asked.  I began to stumble through a canned response-  like Jake Blues…  I ran outta gas. I had a flat tire. I didn’t have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from outta town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake, a terrible flood, locusts. It wasn’t my fault!! I SWEAR!!!

It Wasn’t My Fault!

Her eyes were piercing.  She let loose on me.   “I am sick of your excuses!  You have to grow up.  You are responsible for yourself and the sooner you realize that the better we will ALL be.  Go sit down, now.”

I stood in the lights of the stage.  The lights that had been my blanket of security.  I had loved the gaze of an audience and enjoyed my time in front of the curtain.  Something was wrong, this was not the attention I had come to love.  I turned to see the entire cast of the musical looking at me like I was a 2 year old.  I felt about a foot tall and suddenly had a moment of clarity.  I WAS THE PROBLEM.

Personal accountability.  This is the core of my Leadership Manifesto.  From that day forward I have never pawned off my accountability.  I do not make excuses for my own actions.  I accept the fall out for my my decisions in their entirety.

Leadership must have personal accountability at its core or there is no authenticity. Leaders who do not accept the credit for their actions, both good and bad, are not able to gain trust from their teams or bosses.  I have found that many times when I stand up, accept responsibility and take accountability for my actions, I walk away having gained the respect of my superiors.

Russell Bishop talks about accountability in his blog.  He discusses CPA.  The idea is that we all “Create, Promote or Allow…” events to happen in our lives.  We are accountable and this accountability provides us power over our lives.

I may have learned the lesson of accountability at some time in my life even if I had never been called out on that stage.  But the fact is-  I learned how to be an adult and I had a pillar of my success forged by Judy Childress.  For this-  I say:  Thanks Judy!