Leadership may come with its perks, but good leaders never lose sight of all the people who do the day-to-day work in ensuring an organization moves toward its goals.
Accountable leadership is truly essential for a great organization. If you want people to feel fully invested and motivated to give their all every day, you need to be honest.
Accountability means being willing to “lay it on the line” and tell the complete truth about what’s going on at the higher levels of the enterprise and in the market.
Accountable leadership means those in charge take full responsibility for their part in the team’s operations and outlook. By facing up to successes and failures, they empower team members at all levels to do the same. That raises morale, productivity, and loyalty.
Accountability makes the organization more resilient in hard times and more innovative when the situation calls for it. Everyone feels like they have a role to play, so everyone can add their brain power to the tough challenges facing the group as a whole.
How does accountable leadership work in practice?
These six ideas will get you started:
1. Share Insights With the Team on Where the Company is Heading
It’s up to leaders in any organization to articulate a clear vision for the future and provide at least the broad outline of a path to get there. When people lose sight of the big picture, they might conclude that making money here and now is the only goal.
In the long run, that doesn’t inspire. A plan for the future does.
No one knows what tomorrow holds, but anyone feels more stable and secure knowing leaders have given real thought to emerging opportunities and challenges. Not everyone can shape the long-term strategy, but everyone should know what it is.
When teams know their place in the grand scheme, they also know what to strive for.
That “North Star” helps them keep their daily, weekly, and monthly efforts on track.
2. Update the Team With Any Shift in Company Priorities or Mission Statement
Markets change, customers change, and your priorities or your mission statement may have to change with them.
A change in priorities can be something that affects everybody – focusing on a particular product or business in a particular region – or it can be smaller.
Over the last decade or so, for example, we’ve seen huge changes affect entire categories of enterprises. That includes digital transformation, the race to implement cloud computing, and new alignment between sales and marketing.
Even if a change in priority seems like it might be confined to just one department or division, accountable leadership means laying out the facts for everyone to see.
That’s because shifts like these have “knock-on” effects that go well beyond the key players. They influence budgets, hiring, development, and all kinds of other resource allocation.
Being proactive about communicating change means everyone – even those who might seem to be on the periphery of the action – can do their part to help bring that change about.
Leaders can steer the wheel, but the ship will only turn with everyone’s help. That’s one of the keys to change management, so it should be embedded to your accountability policy.
3. Share Updates With the Team on Company Successes and Failures
Celebrating your accomplishments with your whole team helps them feel that their efforts make a difference. However, it’s just as important that teams acknowledge when a company falls short.
Many executives are leery when it comes to sharing information about failures. They worry that putting details out there makes it more likely the public and competitors will pick up on them.
The truth is, today’s digital world moves so fast that mistakes and shortcomings are bound to be found out. The question is whether your team will have accurate information or rumors.
A clear communication strategy needs to be in place so key updates will get to everyone. All too often, vital updates are missed because they require employees to log into special areas of the intranet. Don’t expect everyone to seek out news: Put it right in front of them.
Owning up to mistakes means stakeholders throughout the hierarchy will feel free to be more inventive in their problem-solving. Mistakes can and should be learning experiences! With that mindset, leaders ensure that the rest of the organization won’t grow stagnant.
4. Provide Advancement and Growth Opportunities for the Entire Team
Beyond communication, leaders help set the pace for growth in the organization.
In an ideal world, everyone would have some time every day to develop their skills. Here and now, though, that’s not always the case. After a full day of work (and a full commute!) it’s not really so easy to “sharpen the saw.” And that means lots of missed potential.
Leaders should set the stage by developing an HR organization that will prioritize ongoing growth and training. Most crucial to that is recruiting talent development experts who will be able to work with directors and team leaders to make opportunities accessible.
When leaders prioritize advancement, everyone has the chance to go further than ever. That ties into accountable leadership by reducing turnover and ensuring that you can start cultivating a future generation of leaders from right within the company.
Accountable leaders never “kick over the ladder” once they’ve reached their position. They want to see others excel and succeed – even if they don’t have time to do the mentorship themselves.
5. Do the Work Within Yourself – Then Do it for the Organization
Accountable leadership starts with the individual.
Your commitment to accountable leadership can only go as far as it does within yourself. Most people, even experienced leaders, need to do some work before embracing radical accountability.
It’s a fact of life: Honest, forthright individuals still have times when total accountability stings.
It’s a good idea to join a leadership roundtable or other “mastermind group” that will give you unbiased feedback about your performance and how you can become more effective. When it comes to accountability, small things add up to larger ones, and they’re not necessarily obvious.
Are you habitually punctual? Do you keep the commitments you make – both to others and to yourself? Personal integrity goes hand in hand with professional accountability. There’s no shame in realizing that you have to unlearn old habits before you can form new ones.
6. Make Expectations Clear Throughout the Organization
Nobody can be accountable if they don’t know where their accountability starts and ends.
In the long run, accountable leadership will create systems of accountability. Those, in turn, will contribute to a culture of accountability. A culture that focuses on results instead of excuses is able to produce work worthy of market leadership even when the going gets tough.
That starts from the ground floor with a good onboarding program.
Employee onboarding is known for helping each new hire deliver ROI faster. But it does more than that: It delineates clear areas of influence, reducing conflict and confusion along the way.
In the end, accountable leadership is the key to a sustainable business. Everyone takes their cues from leaders, so strive to set a shining example.