Accountability Follows Leadership, As Sure As Night Follows Day

It’s amazing how many people I have come across who are desperate to be in charge, who really want to be the leader, but who don’t want to be accountable.

But it doesn’t work like that, if you make the decisions, then you’re accountable for results.

As the leader you choose the directions, and you can’t blame it on others, when your choices don’t lead to success.

Peter Drucker says ‘Leaders make sure we do the right things, Managers make sure we do things right.’

But this does’t mean that it’s leaders who are accountable for setting direction, but it’s managers that are accountable for ensuring that we achieve it.

Remember the manager works for the leader, and as we can’t delegate accountability, the leader still remain accountable for ensuring the results are delivered.

We can make the manager responsible, but we still retain the accountability.

I worked for one boss who decided that we would undertake a massive transformation program. It was one of the largest change programs that I had ever worked, and it was very difficult because we had to make huge changes to our daily operational processes, but at the same time continue to deliver our services to our customers.

At the height of the transformation our services levels dipped, which was not only pretty normal, it was also expected, but it didn’t stop the customer complaining as we were interrupting their ability to do business.

After one bad day my boss called me into his office, I was Head of Service Delivery, so this was my area of responsibility, and I did feel accountable but I was surprised by my bosses comments.

He told me that I needed to get the problems resolved as quickly as possible, because the current level of performance was not good enough, which I not only agreed with but also had a plan on how to address them.

He then said to me that I was accountable for the systems, not him. It was my job to fix them not his and if I didn’t resolve them it would be detrimental to my career.

Why was I surprised, well because I worked for him, I was implementing his strategy, not mine, sure I was responsible even felt accountable, but ultimately he was in change.  As far as the business was concerned, and also his direct boss, he was accountable.

I don’t dispute it was my job to fix the problems, and I certainly felt accountable, but to my bosses boss, it was my boss who was really accountable.

He was happy to take all of the credit for success, but wanted to absolve himself of any of the accountability for any of the problems.  That’s not leadership!

You can take this approach but it’s not one that will help build trust and respect within the team, your customers, nor with your bosses.

If you want to be in charge you have to be accountable, as Harry S Truman said ‘the buck stops here‘.

Be Accountable, when leaders take this approach it builds the trust and confidence.

We need to be able to trust that our leaders will see things through to completion, that when we hit problems they will work with us, shoulder to shoulder, in order to address them and overcome them.

We need to remember that allocating blame doesn’t fix problems!

So if you want to be a leader you need to accept that accountability.

Gordon Tredgold

#leadership principles