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Can Leaders Teach Accountability?

By Perry Holley | March 22, 2023
Can Leaders Teach Accountability?

When the general manager opened the store to start a new day, she was astonished at what she found. One of the front doors was unlocked, and the alarm system had not been activated. This was not the first time the closing crew from the previous night had failed to lock up correctly, but she thought she had corrected the problem. She quickly realized that she should have been teaching accountability instead of teaching process and procedure.

Teaching accountability is one of the most important responsibilities of a leader. Accountability is the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions and decisions and to be held accountable for the results. In The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability by Roger Connors, Tom Smith, and Craig Hickman, the authors present accountability as a personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances to demonstrate the ownership necessary to achieve the desired results.

Here are some ways that leaders can teach accountability:


Leaders should communicate their expectations for performance and behavior. This includes setting goals, establishing standards, and defining the consequences of not meeting expectations. When everyone knows what is expected of them, they are more likely to take responsibility for their actions.


Leaders must model accountability themselves. They should take responsibility for their actions and decisions and hold themselves accountable for the results. Leaders who lead by example set the tone for the rest of the team.


Leaders should provide feedback on performance, both positive and negative. This helps team members understand how they are doing and where to improve. Feedback should be specific, timely, and actionable.


Leaders should encourage team members to reflect on their performance and behavior. This helps them take ownership of their actions and identify areas for improvement. Leaders can ask questions encouraging self-reflection, such as, “What could you have done differently?” or, “What did you learn from this experience?”


Leaders should hold team members accountable for their actions and decisions. This means providing consequences for not meeting expectations and support and resources to help team members improve.


Leaders should provide training and development opportunities to help team members improve their skills and knowledge. This includes providing coaching and mentoring and opportunities for learning and growth.

When leaders teach accountability, they are empowering their teams to take ownership of the outcomes they are trying to produce. When this happens, leaders can create a culture of accountability that drives results and builds trust within the team.

About Perry Holley

Perry Holley is a coach and facilitator with Maxwell Leadership, as well as a published author. As co-host of the Maxwell Leadership Executive Leadership Podcast, he has a passion for developing others and seeing people grow into the leaders they were intended to become.

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