Importance of Accountability in Leadership

Accountability is a desired trait for any organization.  If you’re running a business or any organization, expect your members, employees, stakeholders, and shareholders to desire it.  Why is accountability such an important leadership principle? Here are four very important reasons.

Accountability builds trust

Perhaps the most important result of accountability is trust, which is essential in any relationship.  Being accountable to something means that you’re willing to make commitments and be responsible for your own actions. This promotes trust between you and the people around you. In a contract or covenant, you’re entrusted to protect something.  When you allow yourself to be accountable to this trust, you’re effectively telling people that you’re going to admit it and make amends when the trust is broken.  In effect, you’re emphasizing how important and committed you are to what you pledged to protect.

Accountability improves performance

Accountability eliminates the time and effort you spend on distracting activities and other unproductive behavior. Research shows that some people have the tendency to engage in ineffective behavior. Without accountability, you may only catch these behaviors when mistakes and errors have already been made and your organization has already suffered the loss. By building a culture of accountability on the onset, you rid your organization of ineffective behavior, put the right people on the right jobs, and send the message that you’re serious about excellent work.

Accountability promotes ownership

When you make people accountable for their actions, you’re effectively teaching them to value their work.  Through positive feedback and corrective actions, they learn that their behavior and actions have an impact on the team. They’re not just floating members without clear roles to play – they’re important to your organization. When people know that they’re valued and important, they’re more driven to work hard. They learn to have a sense of ownership in what they do.

Accountability inspires confidence

When done right, accountability can increase your team members’ skills and confidence. Don’t mistake accountability for controlling behavior. The key is to provide the right support – give constructive feedback, improve on your members’ suggestions, give them freedom to decide, and challenge them to think of better solutions as a team.  When people know that you’re actually listening and concerned about their performance, they’re more likely to step up and do their best.

Given these reasons, it’s important that you build a culture of accountability from the start.  Remember that accountability is building a culture of trust and not fear.  Your goal is not to punish and look for errors and mistakes. Instead, you seek to open up multiple feedback mechanisms, fill in gaps, improve on solutions, reward productive behavior, and remove unproductive ones. As a leader, you yourself should hold yourself to the highest level of accountability.

Some organizations do away with accountability, because they think that people will feel like they’re under constant surveillance. However, when done with the right motivations and the corresponding appropriate actions, accountability will give people more freedom to be their best.