HIGHER THINKING BLOG

Renew Your Accountability By Lee Ellis

Will you renew the value of accountability in your leadership?

Perhaps now is an appropriate time for you to renew the leadership value of accountability. Professional accountability is a good thing. Without it, excellence is merely a pipe dream and even average performance isn’t a realistic expectation.

My Experience

As a former POW in the camps of North Vietnam, I believe that my comrades and I saw the purest examples of leadership possible. Our senior leaders put their country and teammates above their own well being to fulfill their responsibilities. They held themselves accountable first which inspired us to follow. In the camps, life and death were at stake, but all leaders held sway over the destiny of others.

As I travel speaking and consulting, I repeatedly hear complaints about the dearth of courageous leaders—not managers or personalities—but leaders who will take responsibility for their actions and for those under them. Without accountability, organizations and people get off track, miss their goals, and everything begins to deteriorate. Can you think of some recent examples in the news or your personal situation? We all can!

Witness the unhealthy abuse and mis-use of power, mis-appropriation of funds, mistakes in judgment, and mis-information used for cover ups. Surely something is amiss in our culture. We want the easy way out, and we don’t like doing hard things. Likewise when we deviate from standards, our first reaction can be to deny or cover up to protect our image and reputation. Accountability is not easy—it takes energy, a plan; and it requires courage to take difficult but necessary actions.

The Commitment

Accountable leaders are committed to their duty and their organizational values. They lay out expectations and then follow through to ensure things get done properly. What is needed is leadership founded on character, integrity, and accountability in every sector of society. Here are three steps that will help restore the practice of healthy accountability.

Communicate with Clarity

Whether it’s a POW camp or non-profit organization, leaders must go the extra mile to clarify and over-communicate expectations at every level. From top to bottom, everyone should know the organization’s mission and values and be able to align with them. Leaders at every level must regularly clarify standards and performance expectations. With clear communication, there should be no surprises in what’s expected.

Demand Responsibility

Each team member has a unique role to play in ensuring goals are accomplished and standards are met. Everyone must own his or her portion of the assigned goal and execute his or her personal duty. If you have people reporting to you, make sure that they have been given the resources to accomplish that goal. Coach, mentor, develop, and resource them as needed, and you will have done your part. Then, your people must do theirs or be held accountable

Act with Courage

Leadership takes courage and that means leaning into the pain of your fears to do what you know is right even when it doesn’t feel natural or safe. A lack of courage in holding people accountable to standards is ripping gashes in our institutions—think of the issues at the IRS, Arthur Anderson, the Atlanta Public School System, Congress, etc.

Personal Accountability First

Whether you’re a leader or a future leader, it begins with personal accountability. The POW leaders went first into the crucibles of torture and suffering, setting the example for the rest of us. Likewise, all leaders must set the example of what is expected. Will you have the courage to do the “right” thing by obeying the laws of the land and putting the Lord and your people before your own selfish goals and ambitions? Will you make sure the right things are happening for the right reasons? If so, you will make a difference in the lives of those you lead—and in the Kingdom.

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Lee Ellis is President and founder of Leading with Honor®, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, and FreedomStar Media®, a publishing company that provides leadership resources and training.

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