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4 Ways to Determine If You Are Supporting an Accountable Leader

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Almost daily you can look at cross-sections of society and find areas where accountability (or lack thereof) is debated and questioned. Everyone from politicians to business leaders and sports figures is fair game.

Regardless of where you fall on a particular issue, one thing everyone should agree on is the importance of leadership accountability -- the process of creating a culture where everyone in the organization can account for their activities, accepting responsibility for them and disclosing the results in a transparent manner.

Not only do leaders need to carry themselves with a high degree of accountability, their actions are what will determine if a company maintains culture of universal accountability.

Here are four ways to know if the leaders you support have what it takes to be defined as “accountable”

1. Make accountability a core company principle.

For a business to create a culture of accountability, leaders need to set a clear path for what accountability means across every sector of the company. If universal accountability is what a company aspires to then everyone needs to understand what that means.

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How do accountable leaders make this happen? To make this happen leaders need to make clear the behaviors they will and will not tolerate. For example, missed deadlines, repeat mistakes or people who habitually act in a manner that is disrespectful and without integrity. At the same time they need to ensure that employees don’t equate accountability with blame. Leaders need to make sure roles and responsibilities are clearly communicated as transparency drives accountability and silos and lack of job clarity lead to finger pointing and blame.

2. Go out of their way to see 'the other side.'

When a leader refuses to acknowledge, appreciate, and encourage the development of opposing ideas, I worry about where their intentions lie. Is he or she looking to do the right thing or the thing that is right for them? If they don’t do their homework to understand “the other side” that is a sign that they lack empathy towards how their decisions will impact others.

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How do accountable leaders make this happen? Really great leaders demonstrate a high degree of accountability when they take the time to understand the other side of their arguments. They actively play the role of the devil’s advocate and use the insights they garner to alter and strengthen their point of view. Whether it comes in the form of data or customer feedback, they desire to know more about what they are doing wrong so they can keep doing better.  

3. Know they are not always right.

When a leader knows they don’t have the right answer for every question they begin to empower others and that action alone begins to breed a culture of universal accountability. It creates an environment where people can be proactive problem solvers because they know their voice will be heard.

How do accountable leaders make this happen? Empowerment is closely aligned with accountability. In addition to generating new and innovative ways to address critical questions, when people are empowered they appreciate being part of the bigger picture. Really great leaders are able to create this environment by bringing people in early so they feel part of the solution from the very start by understanding how their specific responsibility helps a business achieve its goals.

4. Model the behaviors that matter most.

More than talking about accountability, great leaders show it. It is not something that happens at moments of convenience or when things go wrong, they showcase it throughout the work they do and the way the lead day in and day out. They know that accountability comes from the existence of trust and the absence of internal politics.

How do accountable leaders make this happen? At, where I work and serve as a member of the senior leadership team, we make an effort every week to remind the company of the traits and behaviors we hold above all else. We have them painted on our wall and we put them up in front of the company every week as part of our all hands meeting. Our values, and the work we do to demonstrate them at all times, serve as an accountability contract. 

Related: 6 Ways Startup Founders or CEOs Can Stay Accountable

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