Accountability is the Foundation of Leadership

Leadership:  Leveraging the interpersonal and physical ability to get people to do things for or with you.  There are good leaders, bad leaders, and countless books, podcasts and classes that can be dissected for varying formulas of leadership and capabilities/hacks, which all sound easy to conduct and apply to life…

Clichés abound. For example:  

Great Leaders work with their people

Great leaders lead from the ranks, not from the front

Great leaders wouldn’t ask you to do something that they wouldn’t do!

And so on.

Personally I agree with much of the information that peppers cyberspace, but the single most important attribute that defines leadership is accountability.

Accountability – God I love that word. It is completely interdependent with so many other meaningful attributes, like responsibility, loyalty, integrity etc. When you are held accountable you have to hold yourself to a higher standard because passing the buck is not acceptable,  it’s your name, YOUR LEGACY.

I know you’re thinking: “But wait! There are so many crappy leaders in the world.” And you would be correct. But that is because they are not being held accountable. It is a fact of life; you can’t hold every leader accountable, but you can hold yourself accountable.

It is a fact of life; you can’t hold every leader accountable, but you can hold yourself accountable.

The truth is, you can be a leader regardless of your rank or position – and not because some motivational poster told you so – but because you are holding yourself accountable, period. When reflecting on leadership or even critiquing others, consider the following two questions on accountability:

  • Are you in moral compliance?
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  • Does it benefit you or others?

You do not need a long drawn out leadership checklist. And remember being a good leader doesn’t mean you’re always in a positive light. Leadership does call for you to be in the front. Leadership does require asking someone to do something you might not do. Leadership is being a boss AND a friend. Leadership is convening a certain amount of responsibility whether to the knowledge of your followers or not.

I consistently find myself in that middle ground as a leader, but the role of accountability should be a regular driving factor. Do I want to be liked and understood, respected and brave? Sure. Is that always the case? Nope.

Leadership can be lonely, difficult, and in a world yearning for instant gratification – a long process. Experience with accountability comes in all forms. What may be a leader’s best intention can be received as hostile. You may hurt friendships by holding people accountable, but that is the foundation of leadership.

Leadership can be lonely, difficult, and in a world yearning for instant gratification – a long process

Recently I established friendships with my coworkers and led with that friendly attitude. In the end, my team suffered. I was not looking out for their well-being; I was selfishly focusing on my own needs to be liked.

Now, to self-correct myself I had to sit them down for an uncomfortable talk. I had to explain myself, (and this is just my leadership style) why I was changing my path, what it meant for them and WHY. I had to explain my accountability to them, and how the expectation is not between myself and them, but also those that lead above me.

As an NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) There is a certain oath for my rank. I took this oath to lead and develop them; to look out for them and grow their careers. That is my utmost focus.

I do want to be a good leader, and the people I lead are just that – PEOPLE. We are all learning, and leadership is not innate, it is developed. I want to be the one to explain things to them, and share what I can to ensure their success. I want them to learn from my mistakes and hopefully not make the same ones when they are in a leadership role.

Good leaders are seen positively and usually held in high esteem by their followers, but it takes practice and experience. Follow your moral compass – and strive to improve. You won’t make friends right away, and you will make some enemies. But by holding yourself accountable, you will have the integrity  necessary to help others grow, and inspire them to be accountable and lead.

 

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Vanessa Echeverri

Vanessa Echeverri is a USAF Reservist and works in the Silicon Valley. She has been through the military transition from deployed airmen to job seeker, and wants to change the 'embrace the suck' attitude that comes with it. She has since worked for some of the top tech corporations, and even started an employee resource group with sole focus on Veteran Enablement, and ways to improve such a transition for separating military members. She also co-leads a women's mentoring program and believes in employee development. Vanessa aspires to give back what so many strong leaders have given her and change the world, one corny joke at a time.

  • Why is accountability so a big deal these days? Because not being accountable is being rewarded MORE than being accountable. Great post with a solution!
    “…by holding yourself accountable, you will have the integrity necessary to help others grow, and inspire them to be accountable and lead.” LOVE it. Spot on.

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