It was an unscheduled, called, off-premises meeting of the board of trustees without the chief executive officer.

Every trustee was in agreement; it was time for the CEO to retire.

The CEO was one of the founders of the organization; a highly regarded non-profit devoted to serving people in the community. For more than 30 years he had been the leader with the vision, passion and dedication that had been instrumental in building the organization. He was beloved for his dedication, ability and results.

However, time and age had taken a heavy toll on his mental and physical health and was seriously handicapping his ability to continue in the demanding role of chief executive officer.

It was time for him to retire.

He had been adamant and distressed when a few of the trustees had tried to discuss retirement with him. He made it clear that he had no intention of retiring.

The meeting was for the trustees to determine what to do. Everyone was in agreement; he must retire.

No one wanted to tell him that there was only one choice, and that was retirement.

It was the responsibility of the board of trustees, but they were reluctant to act. They were ready to talk but not ready to act.

As I looked around the room, I was reminded of a truth that I clearly understood.

Responsibility Is Not A Group Concept

Responsibility is a personal concept. Holding a group responsible may be possible, but I have not found the effort beneficial.

As always, for a group to act, and anything difficult or important is to happen, one individual must step forward and take responsibility. In most cases, it is not the elected head of the group that takes responsibility, but a member who is willing to take responsibility.

At that point, I said; “I will do it.”

I took responsibility.

Responsibility Is Not A Group Concept

As soon as I said, “I will do it,” a woman and another man said, “I will go with you.”

I had learned long before if I would take responsibility for a difficult or dirty task, I had no problem attracting people who would join me. They knew that if I failed, all of the responsibility would fall on me. However, if I succeeded, they would share in the rewards and recognition.

There is no doubt in my mind; a key element of my career success was my willingness to accept responsibility. When I quit seeking authority and titles, and simply took responsibility, I discovered that my co-workers would join me for the most difficult of tasks. As a result, I learned that I could accomplish almost anything with their spirit of cooperation.

I now had two other trustees willing to go with me to express their support.

When we met with the CEO, he understood our concern, appreciated the way we approached him and was fully cooperative.

His work for the organization was the legacy of his life. Like the trustees, his concern for the future was no less than it had been from the very beginning. He wanted to do any and everything he could to insure the continuing success of the organization.

The transition to the new CEO was conducted in a beautiful spirit of cooperation.

Today, the legacy of the first CEO is alive and well.

Jimmy Collins

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