There has been a tragic failure of accountable leadership at Boeing. But the accountability failure I am talking about is not the failure of a single individual. I am willing to bet that what you have been reading about in the headlines is how, in the aftermath of the 737 Max crisis, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg just lost his job. Unfortunately, his story is a story of unaccountable leadership.
The Accountability Blog
Tag: Organizational Culture
Your organization is in crisis. A key person — or maybe a bunch of key people — just left, and now you’re struggling to deal with the consequences. Before you talk yourself into believing that you’re the victim here, let me suggest some tough questions. Please answer them honestly. Are you personally committed to telling your people the truth? How does your team know that for sure? What evidence do they have to the contrary?
Accountability and truth always go together. If you’ve been following the news at all this week, you’ve learned about two outrageous news stories that whipped up intense emotions across the entire American social spectrum. The first involved the editor of a small-town Alabama newspaper, and the second involved a high-profile actor on a popular TV show. The two incidents may at first seem to be unrelated, but I’m convinced that they carry the same important
A leader with a commitment to a value like “We stand by our passengers and employees when all hell breaks loose,” or with a commitment to securing the airline’s good reputation, would have jumped all over this event, right away. That leader would have made certain that the whole world knew that both the leader and the airline considered such abuse intolerable, would have rejected racism and discrimination in all its forms, and would have announced that a full internal review of the incident was underway.
On the other hand … when there is a personal commitment to an “it’s all of us” relationship … when the leader does model that value, is personally committed to it, and makes sure it is a personal accountability to every person on the team… an amazing thing happens. Everyone on the team buys into “It’s all of us,” regardless of the role that individual plays … and every member of the team becomes accountable to every other member.
The leadership of a great organization has an obligation to make a special kind of commitment to its employees, a commitment that they can always feel safe in asking for help when they need it, and always feel comfortable enough in their work environment to know they will never be penalized for asking for help. It is obvious  that that wasn’t happening here… and that, right now American is not living up to that commitment. As a result, its customers and its employees are suffering.
Here’s a prediction: Whether or not there is a recession, your organization will thrive over the next few years … if you as the leader recession-proof your team by making and keeping your own personal commitment to the right values.
If we’re leading a team, we need to start that change in thinking by defining accountability for ourselves. Let’s define accountability as “keeping our commitments to people … starting with me keeping my commitments to you.”
I believe most leaders know what’s right. They know they have an inner voice that consistently points them in the right direction. They just don’t always listen to that voice.
Why do we tune out that inner voice? Why do other considerations sway us? Quite frankly, when things aren’t right, I find it’s because we’re focused on money first, and people second — or not at all.
I run into a lot of leaders who mislead themselves — without realizing that’s what’s happening. Here’s how they do it. They say things, like “My people aren’t creative – we need to get a creativity expert in here to talk to them.” Or: “My people aren’t great problem solvers – they need to get better at problem-solving. Go find me a program that will help them improve their problem-solving.”
Here’s the disconnect. Nine times out of ten, the problem is not with the team. The problem is with the leader!