What Is Leadership Accountability and How to Be Accountable

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 13, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you work in a leadership position, holding yourself accountable is important. It can make you a better leader and inspire your team to work harder as well. Accountability comes in different forms, such as adhering to goals, meeting deadlines, and achieving milestones, so learning more about them can help you become a stronger leader. In this article, we explain what leadership accountability is, discuss why it's important, and offer tips to help you hold yourself accountable.

What is leadership accountability?

Leadership accountability is when an employee in a management or leadership position holds themselves accountable for their actions and decisions. A good leader holds themselves accountable for the actions and decisions of the employees who report to them as well. This means they're responsible for their team's success and failures. Companies may measure a leader's accountability by how they adhere to business policies and company culture.

Related: What Is Accountability In the Workplace? (With 10 Examples)

Why is leadership accountability important?

It's important for leaders to be accountable for a number of reasons, such as the following:

  • Lead by example: Employees typically look to their leaders for advice on how to act and perform. If a leader holds themself accountable for their actions, their team members may do the same, encouraging them to work hard to avoid mistakes or failures.

  • Creates respect: Employees typically respect leaders who are accountable, which is necessary for building strong relationships. Leaders who have their team's respect may manage their team more efficiently as team members may be more willing to work hard to reach their goals.

  • Inspires confidence: When leaders take accountability, it shows that they're confident in their team's skills and knowledge. This can inspire confidence in their team members as well, which can help them produce high-quality work.

  • Better compliance: Being an accountable leader typically means you adhere to company policies and laws. This ensures everyone complies with all laws, regulations, or standards, minimizing potential fines and lawsuits.

Related: Accountable vs. Responsible: How Are They Different?

How to hold yourself accountable

If you want to improve your accountability and become a stronger leader, here are some ways you can do so:

1. Acknowledge your mistakes and fix them

Being accountable means you acknowledge your mistakes, take responsibility for them, and find ways to fix them. If your team members make mistakes, you can also accept responsibility for them. For example, if a team member orders the wrong type of printer ink, you can accept responsibility by saying you apologize for not checking the order before it was submitted. Instead of being upset about your mistakes, use them as a learning opportunity to discover more efficient ways of working. This can help you avoid the same mistakes in the future.

Related: Guide on How to Learn From Mistakes (Importance and Tips)

2. Help your coworkers

As a leader, you're accountable for your team's success. In some cases, they may need additional help to complete their tasks and be more productive. There are many ways to offer your assistance, such as staying late to help a colleague finish a task or completing their work when they're sick for the day. This shows your team you're taking accountability for their success, which can help improve collaboration and empathy.

Related: How to Find an Accountability Partner to Reach Your Goals

3. Set clear expectations

To encourage your team to be accountable, ensure you set clear expectations. If they don't know what you expect, they may struggle with their tasks and responsibilities. Set clear expectations from the beginning by offering detailed onboarding training. This helps new employees settle into their roles and adhere to company policies and procedures.

Whenever you have new expectations, such as at the beginning of a project or when the company updates its policies, meet with your team to update them. You can set a team meeting or one-on-one meetings to ensure everyone understands the new expectations and can remain accountable by adhering to them.

Related: What Are Employer Expectations? (With Examples and Tips)

4. Improve your attendance

One way to lead by example and to be more accountable is to show up for work every day on time. Being consistent in your attendance helps you be accountable as it shows your team you value their time and want them to be successful. It can also inspire your team members to start arriving earlier and improve their attendance as well. Ensure you arrive at meetings early or on time as well to continue to develop this skill and respect everyone's time.

Related: How to Maximize Employee Attendance (With Helpful Tips)

5. Create an inclusive environment

To encourage your team's success and improve accountability in the workplace, create an inclusive environment. This ensures people from a variety of backgrounds can feel comfortable at work so they can focus on their tasks and responsibilities. Creating an inclusive environment also helps you encourage different perspectives, which creates an atmosphere where anyone feels like they can contribute to the company's success. To create an inclusive environment, promote quality, eliminate bias, and practise active listening.

Related: What Is Inclusive Leadership? (With Definition and Tips)

6. Be willing to accept criticism

Accepting constructive criticism from your team members or management is a big part of being accountable. It helps you accept that you don't know everything and you can always make mistakes, no matter how experienced you are. Seek feedback and apply it to show your team you value their opinions and want to grow as a leader. You may even learn new skills and knowledge you may have never pursued otherwise.

Related: A Guide to Constructive Criticism with Tips and Examples

7. Offer solutions instead of complaints

When you approach problems, try to develop practical solutions instead of complaining about them. This can improve your accountability and encourage your team to do the same. As soon as you notice a problem, brainstorm potential solutions and create an action plan that you can implement to eliminate the problem and stop it from occurring again. For example, if you notice the contact page on the company's website doesn't work, don't complain that the development team made a mistake, approach them to solve the problem together.

8. Provide sincere apologies when necessary

Some mistakes require apologies and offering sincere ones shows that you're taking accountability. Saying you're sorry shows the recipient of your apology that you acknowledge your error and are taking responsibility for your actions to prevent it from happening again. You can offer apologies through e-mail or over the phone, but they may be more sincere in person.

Related: How to Apologize for a Mistake Professionally (With Tips)

9. Involve employees in the goal-setting process

If you want to set goals to keep you and your team accountable, involve your team in the goal-setting process. This ensures you create realistic goals that you and your team can actually achieve, which can motivate them to keep working hard to achieve future goals. When employees take part in the goal-setting process, they're also more likely to care about their goals, increasing their desire to achieve them.

Related: Why Is Goal Setting Important to a Successful Job Search? (With Goal Types)

10. Be honest

While you may be hesitant to acknowledge your mistakes, accountability requires honesty. Create an open line of communication with your team that encourages everyone to be honest about their shortcomings and potential mistakes. It's okay to say you forgot to complete a certain task or that you don't know the answer to a team member's question. This honesty can help you build trust and respect, which are essential for a collaborative team.

11. Follow company policies and procedures

To improve your accountability, ensure you follow all the company's policies and procedures. This can limit mistakes or errors you may have to take responsibility for in the future. It can also encourage your team to follow all company policies and procedures as well, ensuring all your work is compliant.

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