Accountable Leadership

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Did you know that the highest performing teams are also the ones in which all leaders hold themselves accountable for their actions? These groups have high trust, feel connected, and are likely to be talking about what really matters.

In leadership work, I use an illustration called the Accountability Ladder to show the stages of becoming accountable. At the bottom of this ladder, a person can be stuck in the victim role—they are unaware of or deny a situation. When you’re living life on these bottom rungs of accountability, you believe that things are happening to you—you are rarely responsible, and often dependent. If you lack accountability you might wait and hope things improve, or make excuses—“I can’t, because…” On the upper rungs, when you have become accountable, you acknowledge reality, take a position, find and create solutions, and, at the very top of the ladder, implement those solutions.

People at the top of that leadership ladder are usually having a lot of conversations to create stronger relationships, apologizing when they’ve made an error, and verbally owning the positions they have taken and the things they have done.

Of course, even those who live most of their lives with accountability slide down a few rungs during stressful times or around particular subjects or people. If you recognize you’re facing an accountability problem, what is something you can do or say today in the service of taking responsibility for your life or your work? Are there conversations you need to have with others?

Or perhaps you are failing to hold someone else accountable. Can you approach others with compassion, but still confront reality, with the expectation that we all can take ownership of our lives?

“What we call our destiny is truly our character and that character can be altered. The knowledge that we are responsible for our actions and attitudes does not need to be discouraging, because it also means that we are free to change this destiny.”
—Anaïs Nin

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