Personal accountability is an important concept in leadership. It starts with assuming ownership for your choices in life. Leaders work hard at creating cultures that eliminate blaming others for things that happen, eradicates the victim mentality, and reduces procrastination of action.
One of the phrases I learned early in my career was: “That is an excuse, not a reason.” It is a phrase I used as a personal litmus test for being accountable. Whenever I was asked why something went wrong, I challenged myself to determine if I was offering an excuse or giving a reason. The difference generally came down to whether I was taking action or not.
When you look at leadership accountability through the lens of followers, it typically looks like –
- Accepting complete responsibility for your behavior.
- Meeting or exceeding agreed upon expectations.
- Admitting and apologizing for mistakes.
- Admitting limitations of knowledge.
In my notes, I found one discussion specifically focused on the concept of personal accountability. I thought I’d share it with you. Hopefully you will find it thought provoking.
Here are links to the other posts in my leadership series.
My Notes on Personal Accountability in Leadership
Leadership means accepting personal responsibility for our own actions, as well as the actions of those we lead.
The easy question is: “Does that mean I can take credit for my subordinate’s good results?” The simple answer is “No”.
A fundamental tenet of leadership is to reward good work, and to give it visibility. This means a leader should not only give positive feedback to the person (people) doing the work, but should also share the results with others who are important in the person’s on-going career development. Giving recognition produces many dividends – motivation, self-confidence, loyalty, and a clear sense of what type of behavior the organization rewards.
The hard question is: “Does this mean I must bear the consequences for my own or a subordinate’s poor result? Absolutely! Taking responsibility for potentially negative outcomes is as fundamental a leadership concept as is providing positive reinforcement.
Without a doubt, it is easier to play the “blame game” in the short run. Nobody likes criticism. But, we’ve all seen how the blame game plays out. We see it in the courts that are full of plaintiffs looking to blame someone for an injury caused by a calculated risk they assumed. Parents blame teachers for their children’s poor academic performance. At work, managers blame individuals or other Functions for failing to achieve project timing or profit targets.
The big problem with the “blame game” is it doesn’t make us any smarter. It creates a downward spiral casting us into the victim role. In contrast, accepting responsibility breaks the cycle. Constructive criticism can be a great teacher. It gives us the experience to make better strategic choices, to better explain work projects, to be better resources for other people to leverage and to become an even better leader.
Tough times require responsible actions. And it is in tough times that true leaders separate from pretenders.
The above is not intended to be a comprehensive description of a leader. The list simply represents notes I took from a lecture or training course. But, I hope the concepts have the power to make you reflect on the subject, and maybe do a little introspection regarding your leadership mastery.
From the list, was there any thought that struck you as an “Ah Ha”? Did you disagree with any? Which thoughts in the above list do you feel are the most important?
Please leave a comment with your point-of-view.
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