Know the three levels of responsibility and learn to apply it.

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The word ” responsibility ” is one of those with its own weight. Some fear it, others assume it. And we all look at it in a special way.

In human development, responsibility can be seen as the ability to respond ( respons-hability = responsiveness), and, as such, it is the domain you have over certain fields that allows them to effectively direct what is presented, and act .

The question is: why do you run away from responsibility? It may be for comfort, for fear of the uncertainty of the result that could be produced, and even for manifest mediocrity.

However, human beings committed to taking charge of their existence live assuming responsibilities. It is not about overloading yourself with excessive tasks, but about being assertive about the aspects you take part in to make things work. And this is achieved exclusively from action with the purpose in mind.

The simple fact of thinking about what it means to be responsible – first with you; then, in front of others, and later, in the interaction with the environment in which you move – implies a high and non-delegable level of commitment, which can be heavy for many people. That is why they prefer to be irresponsible, in the broadest conception of the term. Think and answer yourself: Which of those people are you?

Act responsively or proactively: that’s your choice

Depending on the level of concern that the situation causes you when taking your part, it is possible to distinguish three types of responsibility: reactive, proactive and creative.

Stephen Covey, lecturer and management specialist, comments that when the person is plunged into a circle of concern – real or imagined – that emotion dominates everything, thus reducing their circle of influence. This happens when it acts in reactive mode.

On the other hand, when the person chooses to move and assume responsibility, he begins to expand his circle of influence, decreases concern and enters a proactive virtuous space.

Connected with these concepts, it is possible to identify three levels of personal responsibility on the matters in which we interact: reactive, proactive, and also creative. It all depends on the position you decide to occupy in front of them.

Reactive responsibility

This behavior indicates that, before an event, you react, even if it is late, even though you had clues that something could happen. It is common to hear many justifications and interpretations of why the delay in acting after the event occurs.

For example, in the middle of something that you saw coming in your personal or work world, you will do your best to minimize the damage, even if it is late. It is like trying to put out a fire with a bucket of the kind that children play, instead of calling the fire brigade.

We could say that it is a reactive emergency attitude towards the fait accompli, even though there were already indications and, even, sometimes you had all the information on how things were going to turn out.


There is a study that was done in the state of Louisiana (United States) after many cities were devastated by Hurricane Katrina. They asked the victims who had lost everything if they considered that, in something, they could have some aspect of responsibility for that tragedy. The vast majority were extremely offended; and a small handful of people said yes, for example, having consciously chosen to live in an area that is a frequent epicenter of hurricanes, or not having purchased the appropriate insurance, or not following the safety warnings that were issued , or not having made the building approvals that govern there.

Some typical phrases of those who act with reactive responsibility are: “I did not realize what was happening”, “I tried, but …”, “I had planned to do it”, “I forgot to warn that this could happen”, “From anyway I helped to solve the problem ”,“ I feel helpless ”(and it does not act to mitigate the damage) or“ It is the fault of… ”

As you can see, there is a lot of victim behavior in these cases, instead of taking full responsibility for your decision not to act.

Proactive accountability

In this case, you’ve done your best to prevent damage before it occurs. On a deeper level, you may have analyzed possible scenarios and their causes; you have worked on them and established a process to follow in case an unexpected event occurs; that is, you took action.

When you choose to design mechanisms to prevent events, you allow the possibility of events that you would later regret to be minimized.

For example, in the teams of commercial executives of different companies with which I work, it is common for them to establish contingency plans in the event of sensitive situations, designing in advance alternative scenarios that will allow them to continue acting despite the fact that the paths are deviating, or are not the right ones. that they expected. I also have clients who have been trained in designing preventive procedures not only in their companies, but with their families.

In the dynamics of responsibility it is extremely important that you assume an active role and that you can adopt the habit of proactivity, which is to move towards the best possible result, anticipating the events that could eventually occur. In disciplines such as engineering and science, this is standard procedure, for example when setting safety standards that are adhered to without exception.

To reflect, here are some phrases from those who are proactively responsible: “I need to act immediately”, “I take charge of the situation”, “Who helps me take this part of the issue that way we do it together?”, “I am looking for the best alternatives ”,“ I know that I can solve what happens if we move together ”.

Creative responsibility

In this case, applying your creative responsibility is achieved using vision and inventiveness, a talent that all humans have, although many say otherwise with expressions such as “I am not creative.”

To illustrate, once a client in the tourism sector was totally paralyzed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Putting himself in the situation, and applying his creativity, he found a way to generate income by doing a series of virtual seminars on his specialty, which, in turn, allowed him to promote his services. With participants from various countries, he managed to capture what are now clients, and also sealed a European alliance to give the same seminars for other organizations.

In other words, if you act with creative responsibility, you permanently seek to dissolve problems, instead of solving them completely. However, you keep moving in a constructive sense.

It is frequent that in this type of cases one hears people say: “I am looking for the return to this question”, “I am going to think of something ingenious”, “I am a creative person and I know how to get ahead”, “I am in charge of the issue and I will resolve it. “

3 other ideas about responsibility

To think together:

1. People do not resist change; resists being changed

There is a meme circulating on social media that shows people in two rows: a sign says “Who wants a change?” and you see a very long tail. The other row indicates “Who wants to change?” And shows just two or three people.

This shows that change begins with the individual, and that it is born from an internal choice to take responsibility for all the events in your life.

2. Change question by question

This strategy will help you reverse situations in which you do not know whether or not to take responsibility. Ask yourself: What is it that prevents me from taking responsibility for this situation? Is there an internal pattern that I am holding on to in order to act like this? What can happen if I take responsibility? What if I don’t take responsibility, what can the consequences be?

What it is about is that you expand your field of vision on situations, to choose responsibility over victimization and inaction.

3. Change the protest for a proposal, and reproach for a claim

As you’ve seen, the big key to responsibility is taking action by taking charge. By not taking responsibility, you are in some way protesting or stating – by not doing – your implicit or tacit disagreement. So, move on with proposals, alternatives, and always propose at least three courses of action: this is responsible proactivity in its purest form.

Also in the reactive responsible mode expressions of reproach appear outwardly. Every time you point your finger outward, you deviate from your responsibility and fall into your role as a victim. This is the case of those people who say “I adhere to such a cause, but do not ask me to put my signature and document.” That’s lukewarm about your responsibility. It is preferable that you assume a resounding no.

So, instead of reproaching if you do not agree with something, change it for a formal claim, with your signature and stamp: it is substantially different. This form implies that you assume your total responsibility, and that you put in motion some alternatives, because it is not about protesting just because, but about generating solutions.

As Les Brown says, the invitation is this: Accept responsibility for your life. You must know that it is you who will take you where you want to go, there is no one else. “