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Being Personally Accountable:  The Definitive Mark of Leading by Example

You are sitting in rush hour traffic. Interstate 95 has turned into a parking lot instead of the fast conduit of transportation it was designed to be. As soon as the cars crawl along the highway again, a car zips ahead and you slam on the brakes. Some not so nice words fly from your mouth and then you notice an echo in the car. Your child is repeating everything you just said.

Parenthood requires an exceptionally high level of personal accountability.  Not only for our children, but for those who may be in their company as well. Since they are so impressionable, it doesn’t take long for the wrong behavior to influence them. Children learn by what we do and how we behave.

The same goes for leaders in business. Bill Gates is a model of excellence and service for his employees. He is a philanthropist known for contributing money to fund many educational endeavors. His altruism motivates his employees to follow his lead. His successful outcomes reinforces the value of philanthropic endeavors.

Sometimes leaders make choices that cause their employees to question their integrity and sense of responsibility. While unintentional, these choices hamper positive relations, hinder trust and dampen long term relationships. Depending on the leader’s role, lives may be significantly impacted and families disrupted forever. For example, the captain of the Costa Concordia ship that sank in 2013 took personal accountability to yet another level when he chose to leave the ship and refuse to return to help the passengers.

I like to say that “leaders are always on”.  Meaning that your employees are not the only ones who watch what you do. Your professional image and brand is always at stake. Personal accountability is not optional for those who desire to lead their associates, organizations, and stakeholders successfully.  Exceptional leadership is essential and personal accountability can never be mutually exclusive. It is one of the significant “Ps” that we have chosen to address in this blog series.

The 8 Ps of Exceptional Leadership Blog Series




What It Means:  Setting a standard through a model of integrity

“Your reputation and integrity represents you. Follow through on what you say you’re going to do. Your credibility can only be built over time, and it is built from the history of your words and actions.” ~Maria Razumich-Zec

Being personally accountable is a necessary leadership trait for trust-building. Employees work together as a team and depend on leaders to guide the company in the right direction. Not only is the brand’s reputation at stake, but also their livelihoods.

Leaders expect their staff to respect deadlines and take accountability for their actions. If they are going to be late with the completion of a task, employees should be responsible enough to make everyone aware of the delay and their solution for resolving this inconvenience. Leaders will begin to lose trust in their team’s dependability.

Employees will begin to question their leader’s dependability when their actions do not back up their words. When an employee’s trust is lost, he or she may not be willing to exert as much effort in their own productivity. A leader who is not personally accountable faces the risk of losing valuable employees. Their exit may contribute to the loss of long term and valuable clients.

As a final thought, even when leaders have the passion and purpose to lead, none of these principles matter if they fail to demonstrate integrity in everything they do. Leaders must take responsibility for their behaviors and "be" the standards they have established in order to build trust and respect for their employees, stakeholders and themselves in the business community. 

A Thought for Reflection

“Leaders set the stage for excellence by their deeds—not their promises.” ~Barbara Tolliver-Haskins

Leaders strive for excellence in everything they do. When they exceed the standards that have been set, leaders feel a sense of accomplishment. It is practical to realize that there will be some instances where some expectations may not be met effectively. Having the wisdom to respond to those situations in a way that maintains their integrity will demonstrate the ability of leaders to be able to push through setbacks with the determination to resolve and keep moving forward. Being personally accountable is grounded in what leaders actually deliver, not what they wistfully promise.

How can you determine if you are personally accountable?

One way you can answer this question is to write your leadership story. Think about your journey as a leader. What are some situations in which you had to be personally accountable? Is there a time when you couldn’t follow through with a task? If so, how did you resolve the issue and regain your employees’ trust? Being a leader is a journey filled with winding roads. As you learn how to handle different scenarios, you grow as an individual.

Describe your journey in a 100 word leadership story and set an example for future leaders to follow.

Navigating the Course to the Next Principle

Being personally accountable is the definitive mark of an effective leader. This principle requires a person to examine what he or she has committed to do and devise a strategy that will enable successful execution of the task. Leaders often have many tasks to take care of during the day. With so much vying for their attention, they have to learn how to achieve balance and remain focused. The next blog in this series will discuss how to decide what’s most important in your professional and personal lives.


Need a plan of action to develop exceptional outcomes in your leadership or clarify those factors that may impede your personal brand? Executive Coaching Solutions will help you discover those unique talents and attributes that will enable you to rise to the top.  Contact me today for an introductory consultation on how we can help you to be “all that you can be.”