When Accountability Doesn’t Work

People say they want to be accountable.  Organizations use the word “accountability” in their value statement.  Leaders complain about a lack of accountability today.  Accountability just doesn’t work.

Accountability doesn’t work when it doesn’t flow from the top.  Printing the word on a piece of paper that is circulated to staff and clients does not create accountability.  Demanding that everyone within the organization is more accountable won’t get much in the form of results.

Accountability only works when it starts at the top.  The leader in any organization must be the first person to step forward and be accountable.  They must be the first person that shows they value everyone around them.  They must be the first person that leads by serving.

When the CEO of an organization sets the pace then, and only then, can we expect the executive team to follow along.  It is then the CEO’s responsibility to make sure that everyone on his or her team sees what is modeled, understands it and lives it.  Once the executive team is living and modeling accountability then we can expect the leadership team that reports to them to be accountable.  It is the responsibility of everyone on the executive team to make sure that everyone reporting to them both understands what is being modeled and lives it.  And so it goes.

The goal is to start at the top and model the desired attribute and then help others live that attribute as well.  Great organizations have great leaders and the ideals and philosophies of those leaders cascade down through the organization.  We can never ask of anyone else what we are not willing to do ourselves.

The other killer of accountability is that accountability is an absolute.  We cannot be accountable “some of the time.”  Accountability is an all or nothing set of beliefs and actions.  The problem with some leaders is that they make exceptions.  Some rules are not made to be broken or even stretched.  Accountability is one of them.  If you value people you value them all of the time.  If you serve others and not your ego then that is the way you always are.  It is the “grey” area that trips up many leaders.

People find security in absolute.  Our commitment to accountability must be absolute.  We master it, model it and mentor it to those around us.  When we are living an accountable life then we can ask more of others and we step up to help them as well.  Only then does accountability really work.


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