A Human Approach

Jae Rang Headshot

Responsibility vs. Accountability in the Role of the Leader

Aha Moment Monday

Have you ever dealt with someone whose responsibility it was to get back to you with information, then didn’t?

Maybe it’s just me but there are times when I’m waiting to receive prices or project details or contact information, and, well, it just doesn’t arrive.

When people fail to respond with something they promised I often ask if what I requested was within their field of responsibility.

I think it’s a very fair question because sometimes a person – bless their heart –  in their effort to be accommodating, will stick their neck out to help but it’s not really in their job description to do so.  So that task is more difficult or frustrating, never makes their to-do list, and I’m left waiting on someone who is not responsible to me.

But I’m wondering if the question lies more around being accountable as opposed to being responsible.  Do you need to be responsible to be accountable?

Aha – responsibility is pre-task, accountability is post-task

A job description can outline a field of responsibility – like doing estimates – but accountability is ensuring the estimate is delivered … by whomever is responsible.

Make sense?

When people whose responsibility it’s not fail to respond, they can take two stances

1)      Blame their position, co-workers, knowledge, work load, the system or any number of things to fall into the role of “victim” and excuse their actions

2)      Answer for their actions – or lack of same – and be accountable to the outcome.

The bummer about being a “victim” is that you give your power away – someone else controls your outcome – and it turns out you don’t need a title to be a leader!

Everyone has “mis-takes” but it’s how you respond – “Take two!” – to what didn’t go quite right the first time, that shows leadership

According to John C. Maxwell, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

Even if what you promised doesn’t lie in your field of responsibility, you likely “know the way” to someone who can help make good on your promise.

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”  ~ Peter Drucker

“Right, right, you’re bloody-well right…”


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