Accountability is the willingness and obligation to answer for one’s decisions and actions

Posted: November 11, 2013 in Leadership
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Today is Remembrance Day, when we salute the sacrifices and service of veterans and those who have served in the armed forces in war and peace operations. However, it is also a time to reflect on the accountability, or lack thereof, of leaders. In the military, leaders are responsible for their decisions and actions. The system sometimes falters, but by and large, military leaders are held accountable for their conduct. Even more important is that leaders can’t be treated differently than the rank and file. They must suffer with them and they must triumph with them.

We can’t say the same about all of our political and business leaders though. Thorsten Heins has overseen the demise of Blackberry. It wasn’t of his making, but he certainly didn’t improve the situation. His recent dismissal with a large “golden handshake” is completely out of sync with the poor results he achieved under his watch. Meanwhile, some Canadian senators have been suspended for claiming personal spending as official expenses. Unrepentant, their excuse is mainly that the rules weren’t clear. But this is nothing but a surrender of ethical judgment. Just because a rule about an action is vague doesn’t let you off the hook. Something might be considered legal, but not necessarily ethical or legitimate. It’s all in how your exercise your faculty of rational judgment and self-control. In the US, whatever you may think of the need for public healthcare, there is no masking the fiasco that is the roll out of ObamaCare. The president has taken no responsibility, and what’s more, it is now evident that he lied about the effects of the the Affordable Care Act in full knowledge that millions of people would be left high and dry, with no option but to subscribe to officially sanctioned health care policies that cost more and offer less coverage.

Food for Thought
Leaders give the ethical tone to an organization by their own ethics. If these are questionable, they will soon undermine morale, and permeate the organization at every level, producing perverse results in individual and collective behaviour.

Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.

© 2013 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

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