Thursday, April 16, 2009

Shared accountability

What is your first reaction when you hear someone at work talking about accountability? If you are like most people, your gut reaction is probably negative. Accountability all too often ends up as a search for someone to blame and punish when things go wrong.

But that’s not the way it should be. Accountability is an essential aspect of right relationship.

At its best, leadership is shared among leaders and followers, with everyone
fully engaged and accepting higher levels of responsibility and accountability
to each other
(Daft, 2002)

In our current paradigm of leadership, we don’t have any problem with the idea that leaders hold followers accountable. Followers expect to be held accountable. Highly effective leaders share their expectations with followers, help enable them to meet or exceed those expectations, and then administer the rewards or consequences that were earned.

On the other hand, it is a huge paradigm shift to think that it is part of the follower’s legitimate responsibility to hold the leader accountable. Yet for right relationship to exist between leaders and followers that is exactly what has to happen.

The best leaders invite their followers to hold them accountable.

And the best followers have the courage to hold their leaders accountable even if they are not invited to do so.

When leaders and followers are purposeful actors (as opposed to egocentric actors), shared accountability is considered necessary rather than threatening.

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