Focused on We, Not Just Me…

accept responsibility accountability accountable leadership leadership culture leadership in management responsibility and accountability in leadership results team leadership the importance of accountability in leadership trust Dec 15, 2021
The Importance of Accountability in Leadership

I closed last time by referencing one of the most powerful quotes I’ve ever heard from John Maxwell, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” I remember sharing that quote with the manager I reported to several years ago when he complained about an issue in the facility we worked at. Since he held one of the top positions of authority in the building, it may have rung a bit too true… But as they say, if the shoe fits!

When it comes to building a culture where everyone is highly accountable, it’s not nearly as simple as just barking orders and firing the people who don’t immediately comply. It’s also not as simple as delivering our individual best within our own area of expertise and assuming everyone around us is doing the same, especially if we’re in one of those roles where we hold any kind of leadership responsibility. We need to maintain an expectation that those around us are indeed delivering their best as well, and we need to ensure that each individual’s best performance doesn’t come at the expense of the team around them!

We have to create an atmosphere of individual accountability AND an atmosphere of team accountability; an atmosphere focused on WE, not just on ME!

When Cindy and I teach teams to quickly recognize and understand communication styles, we always share that one of the traits of the Outgoing and Task-Oriented folks is coming across as being very DEMANDING. While each group gets a chuckle out of that, and usually points to someone around the table, the ones who have that primary communication style nearly always demand far more of themselves than they do of anyone around them. Whether that’s our own primary communication style or not, taking this approach is a great first step in developing an atmosphere of accountability because setting the example for what we want followed helps us earn trust with our team members.

I recently found an article on called The Five Rules Followed by Accountable Leaders that shared “Without a sense of trust and team-work, there is no way employees align deliberately to leaders' authority. Making people obey an order doesn't imply positive results. Making people accountable does.” We’ll look more at the impact earning trust can have on our culture and overall results next time. For now, let’s stick with how being accountable for delivering our individual best needs to tie in with delivering our best for the team around us.

For the first several years I worked in manufacturing, I operated a press stamping parts that were later used on the assembly lines. I was measured individually on the total number of parts I produced so there was always a bit of pressure to simply make as many parts as I possibly could, running the large and simple orders rather than following the sequence needed to match the production schedule. Doing that, even occasionally, would have caused the lines to shut down and could have also caused shortages in the raw materials we needed to produce what we really did need. I may have looked like a rock star for a fleeting moment, but that wouldn’t have lasted very long if it shut the rest of the manufacturing process down and we couldn’t deliver what our customers had ordered.

As leaders, we need to hold ourselves accountable for setting the right example but we also need to be very intentional to make sure our team members understand the importance of being focused on WE, not just ME… When we do this over time, we earn the trust we’ll look at next…