In Action, Change, Leaders

“It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.” – Moliere

I’ve written in this space many times before (here, most recently) about accountability.  It’s a favorite word of leaders, writers, speakers, politicians, you name it.  Everybody likes to talk about how they’re in favor of accountability.

Not everyone backs up that talk.  It’s easy for us to talk about how important it is to be accountable for our actions, but it’s very difficult to want someone else to actually hold us accountable.  Regardless of the situation or action, we seem to be able to explain away just about anything we do.  For everything that is said about being accountable for what we do, most leaders spend much of their lives avoiding accountability at every opportunity.

Even fewer leaders are willing to be held accountable for things they didn’t do.  I met with a leadership group recently who spent hours (years, really) complaining about the unacceptable behavior of some of their employees.  If you listened to the conversation, you would have wondered why those employees were even allowed to remain with the organization.  It was actually somewhat startling to hear.

Somewhere in the conversation, I asked what exactly they as leaders were going to do about all of this.  The room went completely quiet.  The idea that somehow as leaders they had any role to play in the behavior of their people seemed like one they’d never considered before.  They apparently thought their people did whatever they wanted and they were just along for the ride.

If you are a leader, and there is something going on in your organization that you don’t like or that shouldn’t be happening, and you don’t address it, then it’s your failure.  It’s not the employee’s fault that they continually behave poorly.  It’s your fault as the leader for not addressing it.

That goes far beyond simple bad employee behavior.  Anything that’s happening in an organization you lead is your responsibility.  You are accountable for it.  You may not want to be accountable, you may want to blame someone else, you may not want to be embarrassed, but you are accountable.  Organizations are largely a reflection of their leaders, and if the image in the mirror looks bad, then that’s largely on you.

This isn’t intended as a beat down.  This is intended as a wakeup call.  You not only have the ability, but the responsibility to act when your organization needs it.  It isn’t easy.  It isn’t comfortable.  People may get upset.  You may fail initially.  But you do not have the option of doing nothing.  You. Must. Act.

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