The Importance of Accountability in Leadership

accountability accountable leadership personal responsibility responsibility and accountability in leadership the importance of accountability in leadership what is accountability in the workplace Dec 14, 2021
The Importance of Accountability in Leadership

The higher we climb in our organizations, the stronger our expertise (typically) becomes within our respective areas of responsibility. Unfortunately, that often means we have little time - or energy - leftover to develop a high level of competency in the other areas of the business we’re a part of. For example, an engineering manager won’t likely know the in’s and out’s of logistics that a distribution manager deals with daily; the human resource manager won’t likely be all that versed in many of the details involved in designing a work cell for optimal throughput like the engineering manager would be; and the controller probably won’t have much experience in dealing with the personnel issues that the HR manager sees each day. While each of those roles usually report to the manager of the entire facility, that person probably won’t have an intricate working knowledge of every single part of the operation they oversee. In most cases, the general manager came up through the ranks in one area of the business and has some hands-on experience in one or two other areas - at best. 

In groups like this, the manager of each respective department tends to be the subject matter expert and the general manager must rely on each of them to achieve the best possible results. When it ties back to the accountability we’ve been looking at - and more specifically, the trend toward massive unaccountability in what seems like every corner of society - those tasked with leading their respective teams within an organization have to perform something of a juggling act. Not only do they need to ensure each individual in their charge maintains a high standard of personal accountability, they need to balance this with a focus on accountability to the team as a whole.

Last time I referenced Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Not only does he point out the difficulty we can face when trying to hold someone accountable when they’re stronger in a given area than we are, he touches on the tendency so many folks have, regardless of the organization or their title, to engage in the kind of healthy conflict that’s so often required to achieve the best results possible. While I won’t take the time to hash that out here, we do have a few lessons in our Leading At The Next Level program that dig into how critical candid conversations are to great performance and provide how-to steps for making them part of your culture.

For now, consider this: a good manager will take responsibility for ensuring his team meets and exceeds their goals; a good leader will take responsibility for ensuring his team is supporting the departments they interact with; a strong organization is built when the people in charge take responsibility for doing both!

If we focus on being personally accountable, that’s a great starting point. Once we set that same expectation for each member of our team, we see even better results. But if we allow our team’s results to take precedence over the needs of our entire organization, we’re managing at best. When we combine that management with a leadership perspective, focusing on the bigger picture, we can turn the us-down accountability into an across-the-board accountability! Whichever approach we take, the team we’re responsible for will almost always follow suit. As John Maxwell says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership!” That applies to good leadership and bad…

Next time we’ll look at how we can set the bar high by providing an example we want our team to follow - and that’s what good leadership is all about!