Are You Accountable To or Accountable For?

My wife’s parents were over for dinner the other night. Renee cooked a nice meal, we had a great time together and after sitting around for a while to talk after dinner I drove them home. Along with Renee’s brother and his wife we look after them, we help them balance their check book and we make sure they have the care necessary to be both comfortable and safe. We do the same for my mother.

Growing up, as children, we were accountable to our parents. We had to do our chores, we had to clean our room and we certainly had to make sure our homework was done.

As adults with aging parents we now find that we are accountable for them. We look after them. We make sure they have what they need and we insure their safety.

When you are accountable to someone they are responsible for some aspect of your well-being; they affect your life beyond a surface level.

When you are accountable for someone you are responsible for some aspect of another individuals well-being; you affect their life beyond a surface level.

It’s the same at work. As employees, we are accountable to our supervisors and we are accountable to each other. As leaders, we are accountable to the people we lead. We are accountable to the stockholders. We are accountable to our customers. Great leadership depends on this.

As leaders, we are also accountable for the people we lead. The people we lead both impact our well-being and we impact their well-being.

If you are accountable to someone you are not necessarily accountable for them. If you are accountable for someone you are also accountable to them. And, while both are very important, being accountable for carries a higher significance than accountable to. When someone else’s well-being is dependent on you, you can never let them down. Leadership understands and accepts this responsibility.

Take a few moments and think about who in your life, both personally and professionally, that you are accountable to. Are you keeping your commitments to them? Are you fulfilling your responsibility?

Now think about whom you are accountable for. Do you make the types of decisions that respect and fulfill that accountability.

Being accountable is not always easy but it is always the right thing to do. When you keep your commitments to people, everyone benefits from the commitments you keep and the relationships that naturally grow from being accountable.


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