Relationships at Work - Leadership Skills Guide to Create a Company Culture We Love

Leadership Sin #6: Responsibility Without Accountability

January 18, 2024 Russel Lolacher Episode 129
Relationships at Work - Leadership Skills Guide to Create a Company Culture We Love
Leadership Sin #6: Responsibility Without Accountability
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Relationships at Work, communications and leadership nerd (and host) Russel Lolacher highlights the sixth of the seven deadly sins of leadership ecosystems: Responsibility Without Accountability

In this sixth in a series of seven, Russel discusses the difference between responsibility and accountability,  how a lack of accountability allows for bad leadership to flourish and a few areas to focus on to foster better accountability. He provides real-world examples of what this can look like, the impacts of ignoring accountability, and what we can do as leaders to address this issue.

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Lots of Responsibility, No Accountability

I was recently listening to KCRW's The Business podcast where they talked to Maureen Ryan on her book Burn It Down about the toxicity of Hollywood. 

Spoiler: REALLY toxic!

One story stuck out as they discussed the different responses to the horrible work culture of the TV show Lost. It's creators both responded - one denied anything had happened at all, while the other one said they failed as a leader.

That’s a story unto itself. But what really jumped out at me was, after both being showed multiple case documents and interviews, ‘I don't recall those.'

This is a lesson in the difference between being responsible vs accountable. 

On they have a great definition of each… responsibility is referring to someone's duty to carry out a task to completion, accountability generally refers to what happens after something has happened. 

So responsibility is in doing the job in the job description, getting things done.And that includes leadership.

 We have a responsibility not only to deliver a thing or service but also to create a psychologically safe environment,
offer professional development and create new leaders.  

Accountable is about the results. It’s about being responsible for the outcomes of your actions and inactions. 

We’re responsible for a psychologically safe environment, we’re accountable to whether it actually is.

We’re responsible for professional development for our team, and we’re accountable in whether it was the right training, if it was effective training and if our teams took the training and if they are better for it. 

In the case of the TV show LOST, they were responsible for creating a television show, and how that show was created – creatively and its environment. But they also have to be accountable for the ramifications of those decisions, actions and inactions and what came from it.

They nailed the responsible, failed the accountable.

To my comment earlier, If we’re responsible for creating new leaders. We’re accountable for the GOOD and BAD leaders and they impact they have on their employees and cultures. 

If we don’t take accountability, if we as an organization aren’t… then we're just ignoring the importance of being effective. We’re only doing half the job and demonstrating that there are no consequences for quality. 



Bad leaders just get to be bad leaders because no one wants to take accountability for them. 

Great leaders are both responsible AND accountable. So if we do produce bad leaders, we recognize it and correct the behaviour of the bad leader. 
 Because their failure is our failure. 

So what’s the road to accountability? Start with…

·       Setting clear expectations: When leaders know what is expected of them, it becomes easier for them to take ownership of their responsibilities and deliver on their commitments. Clearly define roles, responsibilities, and deadlines, and encourage open communication to address any uncertainties.

·       Encouraging regular check-ins: It's important to set up your leaders for success and make tweaks along the way as needed. Hold one-on-one meetings to discuss ongoing projects, provide feedback, and address any challenges. It's also an opportunity to recognize and appreciate their efforts.

·       Delivering consequences: When mistakes happen, focus on learning from them rather than blaming individuals, and collaboratively make sure they don't happen again. And also make sure successes are recognized. Consequences don't need to be just negative.

Responsibility without accountability is NOT real leadership.  

It’s a checked box exercise demonstrating to other emerging leaders that quality doesn’t matter. Because it doesn’t matter if they are good or bad leaders nor if they produce good or bad leaders, if no one is accountable.

For a great leader and a great culture, we have to prioritize both. It’s sinful otherwise.