Who would want to assume responsibility willingly? Most of us would probably do our best to avoid it. I believe that fear of responsibility makes us pay a lot of price. Take a group of people working as a team for instance. When tasks are divided between the team members, you may have noticed that members would generally prefer to take responsibility of the task that has the least amount of responsibility. Although we generally want to be the ones to take the credit for a success, the same is not true when something fails. Everyone would like to point their fingers to other team members. Because we do not want to be the spotlight for failure, we avoid the high risk but highly rewarding share of the responsibility. And in most cases, the higher the reward, the higher will be the risk involved.
You may have noticed our strong fear of giving responsibility to individuals from the long chains of offices in government bureaus one needs to consult before getting the final service he or she came for. Hustling from one office to another is pretty common. It is rarely that you see one stop shop where a single individual provides the required service. The long bureaucracies, in my understanding, come from the fact that higher level officials do not want to give responsibility to few individuals because of the issue of trust. If a single individual provides most of the services, the risk of misappropriation of power may be high. Sharing the task among a number of individuals may reduce the workload and also encourage specialization. However, this does not mean that four or five individuals should perform a task that could have been easily done by a single individual. In the latter case, the result is a tremendous waste of the customer’s time.
Our fear of giving responsibility not only leads to the hiring of several individuals for a one-man task, but it may also lead to the hiring of a single individual for a task that needs multiple individuals. In the latter situation, the lack of trust keeps people from sharing a task among several individuals. The result is a load of work on one or few individuals, lack of efficiency, and the job not being done properly.
How does one become fearless when it comes to assuming and giving responsibility? When it comes to assuming responsibility, I guess the whole thing comes down to the costs and benefits of doing so. In my opinion, if the reward for assuming responsibility is clearly higher than not doing so, the choice is obvious. Assume the biggest responsibility you can. Never trade a big reward for the absence of a small risk. And as to giving responsibility, it comes down to the degree of trust we have towards others (among other things). What I have learned from my own experience, only the one who is given full trust can be trusted. There is this burden weighing on you when someone trusts in your abilities and integrities. You do not want to lose this trust, and you do not want to let down the person who trusted you. Of course, risk is also involved in trusting others. But the investment made in building trust is definitely worth it in the long-term.
Maybe one question worth pondering about. Which of the two kinds of persons are you? One who fears assuming big responsibilities or one who fears to give big responsibilities to others?