A terrible disease is plaguing society, a disease that in my own medical terms I call “A Common Case Of Untold, Never-ending, Truth Avoidance Behaviors, In Large Increments To You.” If you take all of the bold letters and put them together it spells ACCOUNTABILITY. Okay, it’s a bit of a stretch.
Society has become too good at the “blame game.” There is an innate behavior in most people called the “Self-Serving Bias.” This means that when things go well, I should get all the credit, but when things go wrong, I am going to point the finger and blame everyone and everything else for the failure. Take for example the person who spills hot coffee on her lap and is burned by the incident. This incident happened while the person was driving a car and talking on the cell phone all at the same time. We have all heard how this individual then decided that it was not her own fault for the burns she suffered, but put the blame to the company that sold the coffee for making it too hot. In fact, the person even sued the company for a large sum of money.
This type of mentality is very prevalent in our society and it carries into the workplace. How many “C-level” leaders of big companies have we seen fudging financial reports so that under their leadership the company appears to be “prosperous?” We have seen people be able to hide from accountability for a while, but it eventually catches up and destroys a leader, or maybe an entire company. Whether the source is focused on financial gains, or an ego of being the “perfect” leader, placing blame doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we get back to being accountable.
It is time for a change back to the old traditional roots of individual responsibility and integrity. We can’t run from it forever, so why do it now. I would venture to say that we have all found that when leaders in our lives have taken responsibility for an action, a project, or even a small assignment that went bad, that we now held them in higher regard and developed a greater respect for that person. The ability to hold up the mirror and accept mistakes when they are made, takes courage and confidence. This behavior is what we desire in all our leaders, not to mention a little bit of humility and the ability to hold up the mirror and be honest about one’s own self.
If leaders today want accountability from the organization, then they too need to demonstrate it. But why stop there; shouldn’t we be accountable to coworkers, our organizations, and ourselves? The concept of leading by example is still the most foundational and fundamental way to influence others. Being able to say, “Do what I do vs. Do what I Say” is profoundly more powerful than anything else when it comes to getting others to work hard, work smart, and work ethically.