The Big “A”. Accountability. It’s often scarier and more despised than the F-Bomb, but at the end of the day, it’s what drives our organizations, teams, and individual leaders and followers. That drive can be toward greatness or failure, depending on how those who are “in charge” of encouraging, supporting, and reinforcing accountability in others handle that accountability.
Everyone talks about accountability. No one disputes the importance of it. Yet, why is it that so many individual and organizational actions resulting in scandal and outrage managed to reach that level? It’s usually a lack of accountability that’s to blame, both on the part of the guilty parties and by others who could have stepped forward to resolve (or completely avoid) the issues before they reached crisis status.
Think about it. Could Enron have ended differently? Certainly! Had the Board been more involved, asked different questions, or done a better job of vetting ongoing risky accounting practices. Could numerous political scandals have been avoided? Undoubtedly, if those surrounding the political leaders had served with stronger intestinal fortitude and insistence on acting truly for the public good.
Now, I know what you’re thinking….”Wait a minute here, where is the personal accountability borne by the individuals directly responsible for their own actions?”
And I couldn’t agree more. Individuals ultimately carry the burden for their own decisions, actions, and reactions. And sometimes, despite one’s best effort to curb another person’s errant direction, that person is dead-set intent on heading down the wrong path. I’ve got a daughter who’s in the midst of that right now…it’s easier to avoid taking personal accountability and to follow one’s own path with the self-righteous indignation of a false sense of personal freedom and independence. At the end of the day, if that’s the attitude she insists on taking, there’s not much I can do but to watch her bottom out. But that doesn’t mean I don’t interject progressive consequences to try and shift her way of thinking. THAT is what my responsibility is in this case, and what everyone’s responsibility is when faced with others who insist on exercising their individual wills in spite of the impacts or effects to themselves and others in the future.
So, I’m not absolving anyone of his or her personal accountability in every situation. In fact, I fully support that concept. But I believe strongly that we all have a moral obligation to: 1) point out where others’ actions and decisions are misguided, unethical, or flat out illegal, and 2) to involve ourselves actively in trying to educate through dialogue and, where appropriate, lesser consequences employed as an attempt to persuade someone from their intended (or unintended) destination.
Let’s take a better job of collectively holding others accountable before things reach a state of “no-return.” After all, that’s what a community does…it supports its members from an emotional, (sometimes) financial, and definitely an ethical standpoint. I think we can all get on-board with that.