Responsibility Isn’t Accountability

The words accountability and responsibility are quite commonly interchanged in usage in the English language. In many languages around the world there isn’t a direct interpretation for accountability and the word responsibility is used. Society now blurs the lines between the two.

There are differences and they are significant. You are responsible for things. You are accountable to people. This delineation greatly enhances the understanding and application of each word.

We are responsible to get the report done. We are responsible to clean up our work area. We are responsible to get the food needed to cook tonight’s dinner. But, that report or our work area or even the food at the grocery store isn’t going to hold us accountable.

We are accountable to keep our commitments to people. Accountability always involves people and relationships. How we see people will determine if we are accountable to them. If we value some people more than other people we will be accountable to the people we value the most. Herein lies some of the greatest challenges that people have. Until we can look at people equally and value them the same we will always have a problem being accountable to all the people in our lives.

Our accountability to people is of great importance. Just like we should value people over things so does a difference in accountability and responsibility take shape. I’m not saying that we should take our accountability more serious than our responsibility. We must execute on our responsibilities and we must also keep our commitments to people.

We make both spoken and unspoken commitments to the people in our life. We make promises to our spouse and our children; like I’ll be home at 6:00 or I’ll take you to the big game on Saturday. And, we also have unspoken commitments to keep our family safe, to protect them, to nurture them as people and help them grow. The list of unspoken commitments is longer then most people realize. We need to constantly think about what is and should be on that list. The same is true in the workplace with the people around you.

Accountability becomes this all-in spiritual commitment to the success and well-being to the people around you. When you think about your relationships in that manner you change how you act and what you do.

If our politicians were supremely concerned about their commitments to the people they served they would act differently. People would matter more than party. What’s right would matter more than getting re-elected. Integrity would not even need to be discussed. This is the same for our corporate leaders.

When you want everyone in your organization to achieve greatness in their life you treat them differently. When you want the people in your personal life to find their greatest happiness you will serve them differently. This way of understanding and thinking about accountability to people will help you create more significance in the lives of those around you and in your life too.


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