Leaders Must Model Accountability, Not Just Write Corporate Values Statements
When Leadership Accountability is absent, as we have seen at Volkswagen, Enron, HSBC, Wells Fargo, the U.S. Veterans Administration, and other organizations, devastating disasters and ethical crises often arise. In some instances, neither the brand nor the organization recovers from Leadership Accountability lapses.
Accountability in an organization does not happen by including it is the corporate values statement, producing a brochure on corporate values, or by placing posters on the walls with definitions of accountability.
For proof of this, look at our current global benchmark for corporate cheating scandals: Volkswagen. At the time of their deliberate attempt to circumvent the U.S. Clean Air Act by installing cheat device software in over a half million Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche cars exported to the United States, Volkswagen had a well-written and detailed 24-page Corporate Conduct Guidelines book that did nothing to prevent or stop deliberate cheating and fraudulent actions.
Leaders at every level of an organization must model accountability and deliver on their own commitments to team members, peers, and bosses. In addition, leaders must also hold all others in the organization accountable.
This can be difficult as it is not easy confronting a co-worker whose actions, decisions, or behaviors have exceeded corporate, legal, or moral boundaries. Some might fear that having a culture of holding people accountable might create an unwanted culture of blaming, naming, and shaming.
However, if you want to ensure a culture of accountability, you have to hold people accountable for their actions, decisions, and behaviors. This can be done in a non-confrontational way, especially if you approach each incident with an attitude that your purpose in holding a person accountable is to help develop them and help them improve their workplace performance (instead of an attitude of it’s time to punish or discipline the person).
This works best when leaders tell their team members up front that they are going to be held accountable. At the same time, leaders should also describe the process for how lapses in meeting agreed upon standards will be dealt with. Following through using the described process in a non-threatening way reinforces your personal leadership commitment to accountability and often results in team members holding one another accountable as well.
This article is excerpted from my book Great Leadership Words of Wisdom, which is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats and has over 1000 quotes on leadership from global business leaders, statesmen, athletes, coaches, sages, and philosophers.