The Leader and Accountability

Two men in living room talkingAccountability: the quality or state of being accountable; especially, an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.

The word accountability likely raises various ideas. For example, for what is a leader actually responsible? And what is beyond the leader’s responsibility? That could be the focus of our discussion; however, let’s take a different approach. Let’s accept the notion that the leader is accountable and responsible for her choices. And let’s focus on the idea that when it comes to choices, the leader should know the buck stops with her.

With the awareness that the buck stops with the leader, it is important for the leader to have at least one person with whom they are completely honest for the purposes of accountability.

The tendency is to think that one-to-one accountability is necessary only (or primarily) to protect us from immoral choices such as lying or adultery. Certainly any and all of us could be tempted to make wrong choices. But leaders who do not think they are in danger of making such blatant immoral choices because they are careful, and take all the necessary precautions, may not think they need one-to-one accountability. However, accountability goes beyond so-called major issues.

What about the leader who uses her power to manipulate circumstances to get her way? Or what of the leader who is so ego-driven that he must always get his way because it is all about him? What about the leader who puts others down and is emotionally and verbally abusive? How are leaders who have the tendency to behave in such a manner held accountable?

The reality is that without honest accountability with at least one person, any leader has the potential to deceive her- or himself into thinking she/he is a good leader. And that possibility of self-deception is all the more reason that a leader needs accountability.

Our ability to deceive ourselves is virtually boundless; that’s why accountability is so necessary. Without submitting to the counsel of others, we can rationalize almost anything, especially if what we’re doing involves a series of small compromises. Thus, accountability is needed, not so much to protect us from others, but to protect us from ourselves. (NIV Leadership Bible)

Being at the top as a leader can be lonely, and leaders who do not build in accountability with others will often struggle in their role as leader. Bill George, Discover Your True North, made the following observation, “Leaders do not succeed on their own. The loneliness of leadership has been well documented.” (p. 146)

He goes on to say, “Authentic leaders build close relationships with people who will counsel them in times of uncertainty, be there in times of difficulty, and celebrate with them in times of success” (p. 146)

Given the ability to deceive ourselves, accountability for a leader is crucial. Having people in your life with whom you are accountable is one of the best things you can do to help you succeed as person and a leader.

One of the best gifts you can give yourself and another person is to build a relationship where you can be completely vulnerable and open, warts and all, and still be accepted unconditionally. (Bill George, p. 147)

To whom are you accountable? Who knows you warts and all? Do you have at least one person with whom you can be completely honest about your fears, struggles, and uncertainties? Who supports you when you are facing difficulties and who is there to celebrate when you succeed?

True, leadership can be lonely and hard but don’t make it harder and lonelier than it has to be. If not already present in your life, invite genuine accountability. Maybe it’s time to start getting real!

If you would like help in achieving your goals as a leader or in any area of your life, call us at 208-880-0307 or email us at to schedule a complimentary coaching session. To read Errol’s other posts, visit Christ-Centered Life Coaching.