When the chips are down, how often do we hear leaders, whether in sport, politics or business, admit responsibility and shoulder the blame? Not that often.

But, last week, following a defeat away to Ajax (which could be the final nail in the Champions League coffin for money-clad Manchester City), Roberto Mancini, did just that, with the words: “They played better than us. It was probably my fault because I prepared badly for this game, I didn’t prepare the players and I’m at fault for the defeat.

There are a multitude of reasons why leaders react in certain ways following defeat, but taking the blame is, more often than not, an opportunity seized to take the heat off the team that he or she is leading. And, in this case I certainly believe that was Mancini’s intention.

With another crucial Premier League game at the weekend, was he taking on the tricky questions and the media spotlight to help his team prepare for the next game? Being an ex-player himself, he has had to deal with the pressure of endless competitive games, so was he using his experience to support the team around him?

Emotionally intelligent?

His reaction was immediate, he didn’t give the circling vultures (also known as journalists) the chance to even get to his players – he absorbed the impact and protected his team. It showed a level of Emotional Intelligence on the part of Mancini, as he appeared to effectively manage and control his own emotions in order to motivate and support the rest of his team.

For me, this one act highlighted just how much Emotional Intelligence is lacking in modern day leaders.

Once again, how often do we see leaders doing this? In recent times bank chiefs have stuck their heads above the parapets during periods of turbulence? Have police heads come out and apologised for the Hillsborough disaster? Who at the BBC will take responsibility for current revelations? The ramifications of accepting blame might be quite different in these instance to that of Mancini’s, but the act of shouldering blame is the same.

Authenticity

There is a ‘but’, however, that should be duly noted. Because, for Mancini’s act to be truly effective it has to be sincere, without ego and without any ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ or excuses. This is the case with any leaders who look to accept the blame for a mistake that could be apportioned across a team, department or business. Authenticity is absolutely vital.

Was Mancini truly effective?

If you examine his language, the City manager does accept responsibility – he says as much in interviews. Yet he also concedes that the team had chances, and so dilutes his own responsibility in a flash. By saying the team had chances was he blaming his players?

As a leader, do you consider yourself to be emotionally intelligent? Do you understand and appreciate the power of language and the impact it can have on those you work with?

Colin Graves
Director at executive coaching company, Iridium Consulting.

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