In the world of leadership, there are a lot of obstacles to overcome. Some obstacles are external such as shifts in the economy, difficult clients, and troubleshooting workplace dynamics. However, there are also internal obstacles that can trip us up from time to time.
Both external and internal obstacles are common while serving as a leader. The main difference is external obstacles we have no control over, while internal obstacles, we do. With external interferences, we can anticipate and prepare emotionally which will help to drive our reactions in the right direction of a proper response. However, the problem with this is sometimes we have internal obstacles to combat that will push us to react in certain ways that may be toxic to a work environment and the situation at hand.
When we respond instinctively in a negative way, we must take accountability for our response in order to salvage trust and transparency with our teams. Just as important as reactions, we must take accountability for our actions, such as a poorly made decision or a careless oversight.
Now, let’s explore what accountability is, why it’s important to leadership, and how to accept it with grace.
What Is Accountability?
Accountability and responsibility go hand-in-hand. When you take accountability for something that has happened such as misjudgment, a poor decision, or a careless oversight you are telling your team to breathe and relax while you take the blame.
However, though accountability does go along with responsibility, that’s not all it is. Accountability is actually much more than that. It’s about a promise and a commitment to an outcome no matter what it is. Rather than being responsible and saying, “Yes, I made a mistake,” accountability takes it further by following up with a strategic gameplan to set things straight again.
Accountability can be related to two outcomes in leadership: action and reaction. Maybe instead of making a poor decision (an action), you reacted negatively to something (a reaction) a team member said or ‘flew off the handle’ when a client pulled out of a deal.
No matter if it is an action you took or a reaction you made, it is pertinent to take responsibility for it for the sake of your team, because as a leader, you are the one representing the whole.
What Makes Accountability Difficult?
Accountability is difficult for a number of reasons, and they stem from other external and internal forces. The act of being accountable is a very vulnerable act for any human to practice, but it’s also necessary for all aspects of life. When it comes to leadership, though, it’s harder because of your position in the public eye, which intensifies the weight of vulnerability.
Aside from the internal struggle of being vulnerable that most humans have dealt with at least once in their life, but many throughout their lives, there is an external factor as well that relates to accountability. Many leaders do not want to be seen as being unprepared, unprofessional, or unknowledgeable. It’s fair to say that all humans make mistakes, but leaders tend to put themselves on a pedestal for their teams. This causes serious self-doubt and denial when a mistake is made, which combats the act of taking accountability.
A Leader’s Accountability Matters
As leaders, we do our best to have an efficient team, a proper structure, and a well-devised plan. However, it’s easy for plans to get derailed in the fast-pace environments of modern companies.
When plans do not go as planned, as a leader, it’s important to take responsibility for that. Leaders are the ‘top-dogs’ of their teams. They are the ones who are in the public eye, and it’s important that they do their best to represent the whole, in all situations, both negative and positive.
As a leader begins to take responsibility, that mindset will begin to spread throughout the team, strengthening the bond amongst team members. The work environment will start to morph into an anti-blame dynamic and the team will start to solidify taking responsibility for mistakes and working together to fix them and avoid future problems. Overall, this creates a common goal for the team.
Having accountability throughout a team also works wonders to troubleshoot issues. It is easier to see where something went wrong and how to fix it. This helps to make the workflow more efficient and productive.
It’s clear to see that leaders are the role models of their teams. They are the people to look up to. So, when they take accountability, so will their team.
How To Take Accountability
Taking accountability is not one easy formula. Rather, it’s a few different qualities and steps that act together to help you to master the art of taking accountability.
To start to learn accountability as a leader, here are some things you should do:
- Ask For Feedback: When you ask for feedback, you are welcoming thoughts from your team members on your performance. This will help you to see where you went wrong and learn to accept it.
- Communicate: Communicating with team members is always key to productivity and efficiency in the workplace. However, it is even more important when you take accountability for a situation. You need to let your team know that you are responsible and how you are going to fix the issue at hand.
- Learn From Mistakes and Successes: Learning from mistakes and successes, as a leader is vital to moving forward progressively. We cannot learn without taking accountability first.
- Evaluate Your Work Process: Not only is it important for you to get feedback from others, but it’s also important that you look inward at yourself and your work process. If there is something that keeps tripping you up, accept responsibility for it, and examine the step clearly to get to the root of the problem.
- Care: When you care about your team and your work as a leader, it is much easier to accept accountability. If you make a mistake, you will feel compelled to fix it.
- Make Changes: This comes after accountability, but it’s important in order to move forward on an issue. You must make changes in order to see results. But in order to make changes, you must first accept responsibility, accept that there is an issue, and make the decision to fix it through action.
- What Is Accountability?
Accountability is taking responsibility for an action or reaction and following it up with a solution.
- What Makes Accountability Difficult?
Accountability is difficult because humans struggle with the idea of being vulnerable when they are not “at their best,” especially in the public eye.
- Why Does A Leader’s Accountability Matter?
A leader’s accountability is important because it promotes an anti-blame workplace dynamic. The leader is a role model for their team, so when a leader is vulnerable and accountable, their team will be too.
- How Do You Take Accountability?
Taking accountability as a leader starts with being open and vulnerable with your team. Remaining transparent through difficult situations and keeping the conversation open will help you to become comfortable with accepting situations as they are, taking accountability, and finding ways to move forward.