Who Are You Accountable To as a Leader?

Dr. John Townsend

March 7, 2017

As I leader, I have to admit that I hate being accountable.  It is not that I want to rob banks or run red lights.  It is more that I love freedom and having lots of choices.  There is nothing wrong with freedom, it’s great.    But if that freedom has no accountability to it, you run the risk of losing focus and clarity on what your leadership mission is.

To be accountable is to answer to someone you trust and respect.  All leaders need someone to advise, counsel, direct and guide us.  When we are accountable, we open up about our challenges, questions, and decisions.  Those we answer to have their own tasking; to provide grace and truth to us, in the same way that we should do with others. As a leader, you have no idea of the potholes you will miss, and the opportunities you will reap if you are accountable.

When I am consulting with a management team, no one argues that point. Nobody has ever said to me, “I don’t need to be accountable to anyone.”  That is, except when my kids were teenagers.  Most of us just know that accountability is a good thing.  The problem comes when we either pick the wrong people to be accountable to, or when we don’t truly answer to those people

Here is the issue of the wrong people:  we become accountable to our spouse, God, and our friends.  That sounds great, but it is not enough.  You can slide by your spouse and justify your decisions.  God will let you slide and make your own choices.  And your friends will rubber stamp you.  You don’t have enough of the right people on the right bus.  I recommend you get 3-10 people of character and maturity, to whom you say, “Here is my life and leadership.  Here are my numbers, here are my challenges.  I give you full permission to ask me the hard questions.”  Now you’ll get somewhere.

Here is the issue of not truly being accountable:  you get the benefit when you listen, follow up, and report back the outcomes.  Don’t go into the “my mind is made up, please don’t give me the facts” trap.  Deeply listen in a vulnerable way to what your people tell you. Go beyond listening to acting on what you hear.  Take steps.  And finally, report back to those to whom you are accountable.  Maybe you did 10% of what they recommended.  Maybe you did 100%.  But if you do this, you will reap great fruit and see measurable change.

I still don’t like accountability.  But I do it.  And it pays off for my own life and leadership.  It will for you too.  God Bless you.

Do you have any stories about the benefits of accountability? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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