“How accountable am I?” This is a question accountable leaders never stop asking themselves.
Accountability never stops. Accountability is proactive. Accountability takes a conscious effort and continuous action over time. Accountability is keeping your commitments to people. The minute you stop asking yourself how well you are keeping those commitments, the minute you stop taking action to strengthen those relationships, Accountability fades.
Often, I will hear leaders say something like this: “Sure, I’m accountable. I make sure the paycheck shows up every two weeks for every person in this organization. That’s my responsibility. And I make sure it happens like clockwork. If that’s not accountability, what is?” And for them, that’s where the discussion about accountability stops.
Here is the problem with that kind of thinking: We are responsible for things. We are accountable to people. And while making sure the payroll runs certainly affects the quality of the relationship, it is not actually accountability, because on its own, it does not support any other personal commitment within the relationship. Accountability is all about relational commitments: things people follow through on to make sure the relationship with another person stays strong and gets stronger over time. Responsibility is tactical. Accountability is personal. Is making sure people get paid a commitment? Sure. So is making sure your electric bill gets paid. It is a tactical commitment. It does not imply any meaningful connection.
Tactical commitments are not enough. If there is no relational commitment anywhere, then there is no accountability.
If you are not fulfilling your tactical commitments to your people, you are not doing the job… and you should find something else to do!
There are three critical factors that determine the level of accountability in your life.
The first is the experience you create for yourself and others, meaning the future you make a conscious choice to step into.
The second is the mindset you adopt in support of that experience, meaning the beliefs you have about people around you, the world, and yourself.
And the third is the commitment you take on, meaning the persistent, relentless action you undertake in support of the experience you are creating, your beliefs, and the relationships in which you are accountable to, and/or accountable for, other people.
Accountability in other words, is all about keeping commitments. The most important of those commitments are the relational commitments. And the best leaders never stop asking themselves how they can strengthen their relational commitments. If the only evidence for accountability you can point to is transactional, that is not accountability. It is responsibility. And those are two entirely different things.
Accountability is not a way of doing. Accountability is a way of thinking. When you think about the people around in such a way as to serve them, when you look for ways to help them grow to be their best, and when you are focused on their success, you are an Accountable Leader.