The Accountable Leader

Leaders, what do you think about when you think about accountability?  My guess is your first thought might be something about getting your employees to do what you expect, and initiating some sort of consequence if the expectation isn’t met.  Am I right?

You’re not wrong, but because the concept of accountability is one of my favorites, I’d like to challenge you to think about it in a much broader sense. For instance,’s definition of accountability is the state of being accountable, liable, or answerable. This definition is certainly applicable to our initial notion relating to our employees, expectations, and consequences, but just for fun, (yes, I said fun) let’s flip that on it’s head. 


Keeping an open mind, consider this; what if we applied our example definition of accountability to ourselves as leaders?  What would that look like? To start, being an accountable leader means developing clear expectations. I mean crystal clear (you can find more on this in our “Why you want to know us” blog post, and our podcast titled, “Setting Expectations in the Workplace). Like it or not, if you don’t provide clear expectations, you aren’t doing your job to set your team up for success. In other words, you’re not in a state of being accountable.


Next stop: consistent feedback.  Yes, consistent feedback is time consuming. I know you’re busy. I get it! But the return on your time investment is huge, and if you are not having regular conversations with your team and team members, you’re not being accountable to them. If you’re not accountable to them, how can you expect them to succeed? The answer is, you can’t. Talk to your employees! Let them know up front to expect to hear from you regularly. Doing this, will accomplish a few important things. First, and I would argue, most importantly; it will diminish a sense of anxiety for the employee. You’ve already told them to expect to hear from you regularly, so when you ask to meet with them, they won’t automatically think something is wrong. Their defensive reactions will diminish and over time, completely fall away.


The best thing about consistent feedback is that it’s both positive and constructive. Sometimes you’ll check in and be able to celebrate an accomplishment. Other times your conversation will be more constructive in nature. The point is that you’re accomplishing several things here. You’re reiterating the clear expectations you set in the beginning. You’re reinforcing great performance, and addressing problems in the moment. You’re creating a culture of openness to feedback and respectful dialogue. In short, with consistent feedback, you’re building trust with your team by being accountable to them. Believe me, they will quickly start to rely on, and even look forward to these conversations with you.


This is the secret no one tells you.  Accountability starts with you my friend. If you are not accountable to your team, you can’t expect your team to be accountable to you.


For questions about how you can become an “accountable” leader and/or how we can help your organization’s leaders hone their skills to be “accountable leaders”, reach out to us via our contact page, by phone, or through any of our social media platforms which can be found on our website.


Your employees will thank you!

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denver, Colorado
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