Wikipedia defines accountability for leaders this way:  the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies including the administration, governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position and encompassing the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for resulting consequences.

That did nothing to help me understand the definition, let alone its value.  With my second reading I saw the word assumption within the definition.  Say no more.

Those of us in the corporate world, consultants and authors create and perpetuate words like accountability, empowerment, engagement and others.  Words and concepts can be helpful to explore and use, but more often, are dangerous because people shortcut design and implementation cycles in their attempt to get a powerful results.  Yes, accountability without strong relationships is harassment.

Warren Bennis, the father of leadership development, was quoted once by saying leadership is nothing more and nothing less than relationships, and relationships matter to leadership.  Agreed.  You see, leaders are nothing without followers.  Leaders and managers, and their organizations prosper when the collective nature of the team or group of people contributes more than individual team members.

With that in mind, let me offer some suggestions on how leaders can foster accountability in other leaders within their team.

  • Leadership is not a one-person activity.  Lone rangers need not apply.  Leaders need to come together to discuss, plan and review, especially when they report to each other.
  • Start with the belief that you have good people among you, who are trying to contribute good things towards the goals that matter.
  • Don’t assume that passing on an assignment to others once is sufficient to build understanding and the context that your associates need to fully succeed.  Communicate, communicate, communicate.
  • Work associates from our teams all need planning, coaching and resources to succeed in their work.  As leaders, we are in the best position to provide it as we clarify the task, offer opportunities for growth, and celebrate their successes.
  • Somewhere along the journey that you are on with this task and work, a challenge or dilemma will rear it’s ugly head.  Know that and realize that how you lead your employee through that moment of truth will speak volumes.
  • Some staff associates will need more direction and some will need less.  We can hold them accountable, but will succeed as we look at the planning time, support and collective nature of the work.


The world of work is changing.  It’s pace, it’s structure and it’s demands.  Leadership must rapidly change as well.  Respond to this blog by informing us how you have provided supportive accountability to others.  Now let’s get to work!