Bob Schultek Author of The Gauntlet

The recent celebration of our nation’s birthday prompts reflection about our distinctive idea of individual freedom, and our persistent pursuit of the aspirational vision and values so perfectly expressed in our founding documents. During our journey, we’ve celebrated achievements and suffered failures, but we persevere, continuing to experiment, to learn, to evolve and to improve as we strive to fulfill the promises that sustain our unprecedented liberty. 

Being a free people, we have the option of choosing, but then must be accountable for the consequences of our actions, be they good or bad. History teaches that our choices thus far have been more worthy than not, so we’ve endured as a land of opportunity, ever moving towards the vision first expressed by our founders. 

Embedded in the story of our nation’s journey are lessons for business sustainability. Every day business leaders make choices that are expected to improve results and create value. Their success in doing so often rests in how they manage accountability. 

Some perceive accountability in a punitive way. Failure to achieve a goal, or challenging the status quo, may indicate a lack of competency or respect for authority. Chronic failure may develop if these issues are not addressed, negatively impacting the leader as well as the individual. To motivate behavioral change, these leaders often rely more on reprimand than on invoking shared accountability. Fear of failure or humiliation then drive the offender to avoid future instances by withdrawing, reducing the collaboration and initiative needed to improve results. 

Other leaders utilize accountability as a tool to encourage experimentation and learning that drives productive change. They realize that creating value and accelerating progress towards their organization’s founding purpose and values requires the engagement and commitment of those they lead. Much like our nation’s persistent evolutionary experience, they promote a sense of shared ownership in the future. They recognize their people’s longing to do work that matters, to make a difference, to master and to earn autonomy as well as respect and reward. This brand of accountability is shared between leader and team, compelling collaboration to find a better way, to explore and learn from mistakes, creating value along the way. 

Some might say that this form of accountability resembles the quest for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

How does your organization view accountability?

How does this perception impact your success?