When we aspire to career success, we typically set our sights on external factors. We establish our goals, determine a strategy, and map out the tasks. If our objective is to develop leadership qualities we frequently look within to our strengths, capabilities, knowledge, and skills. The quickest way to overall success is taking control of the entire process through accountability.
What Accountability Looks Like
Accountability is accepting responsibility for your actions and being willing to be answerable to the outcomes of our choices, decisions, and actions. Accountability equates to living in integrity — being consistent in thoughts, words, and actions.
When we fully commit to having responsibility in any process, we begin to integrate external tactical support and our own internal capabilities, and develop a sense of control for the results. We take ownership for our part in the process, both independently and as part of a collaborative effort. Once we accept the fact that our actions have consequences, we are empowered to make the effort that creates the results we want.
The “Accountability Ladder”, outlines differentiating attitudes between empowerment and victimhood. The top four rungs indicate responses that result in empowerment, the bottom four rungs show the powerless behaviors that result in being a victim:
- Acknowledge reality — The first stage of accountability, this level assesses and views a situation in stark reality. From that reality, there is an ability to assess what action is possible.
- Accept ownership — Just acknowledging reality doesn’t result in taking responsibility. After acknowledging what exists, the choice point here is to decide to accept ownership for the results.
- Apply solutions — Find ways to get it done.
- Make it happen — Do it.
- Unaware — At this level no awareness exists that there is even a goal to pursue or a problem to solve.
- Blame and complain — It appears that others are at fault for the outcome, usually an undesirable one, at this step. Advancing beyond this stage requires examining our own role in the situation.
- Excuses, not results — Excuses are ways of not accepting responsibility. It doesn’t matter if there is any validity to the information within the excuse. When a goal is a high enough priority, there is a way to make it happen.
- Wait and hope — Change doesn’t come without some type of action.This level is completely passive, allowing external factors to just develop.
Each rung of the Accountability Ladder is simple, but accountability occurs when you personally stand up for a solution despite any reaction — for or against it.
So – How Do I Start?
When you take full ownership of your actions to make something happen, you are in control. You accept personal responsibility and hold yourself — not others — accountable. Taking an empowered approach throughout life rather than limiting it to the workplace builds leadership as you navigate your choices and the implications they bring.
Being accountable means we look for the greatest potential outcome at all times. We stop whining and take control of what we can do. We let go of pointing fingers at who’s wrong or at fault and just figure out how to make something work. Once we start looking beyond how to problem-solve and resolve to make something thrive, possibilities open up, creativity fires fully and our sense of empowerment leads to success.
Being both responsible and accountable equals taking full ownership of life. And though the process may not always be easy, it does offer tangible benefits. Taking personal responsibility for your actions leads to healthier relationships with your friends, family, and colleagues, and leads to more positive social interactions.
In the workplace, accountability builds trust as organizations understand they can depend on their team members. Individuals who are accountable are more likely to be trusted because others know they will keep their word. Once fear of failure is removed, employee participation and involvement increases, as does overall feeling of employee competency and commitment to work. Because the environment is safe for exploration, overall performance is higher, as is the level of creativity, innovation, employee morale and work satisfaction.
By taking responsibility and taking action when needed, problems can often be averted. Timely responses and action can result in time and cost savings.
Success as the Leader in Your Life
Accountability doesn’t guarantee that you always get the result you want. It means that you’ve acted in integrity with your choices and actions, and can stand behind them because they are congruent with what is important to you.
Regardless where your actions are — in the workplace or personally — when you make deliberate choices, you are in control. Your decisions are the opportunities for your own success and for the possibility of inspiring others. You can choose to make life happen, rather than watch events happen to you.
Success is measured not just by your actions, but how you conduct yourself through the process. A true leader is an inspiration to others, and everyone has the potential to be an inspirational leader of their own life.