leader in front of audience

Seventy-two percent of leaders believe accountability is vital to business success, yet only 31% are satisfied with their company’s level of accountability. Even staff members notice a serious gap: 91% express accountability as their employer’s top leadership-development need.

When leaders are not held accountable for their actions, commitments, and work, this permeates the entire business. Simply put, the time to bolster accountability is now, and this all begins with leadership.

Keep reading to learn why accountability is important in leadership and six actionable steps you can take to help close the gap.

What Is Accountability in Leadership?

Accountability in leadership is when leaders take pride in and personal responsibility for business goals and results by fully committing themselves to the organization and its people.

Accountable leaders display behaviors like those below:

  • Accept responsibility for their actions no matter the results
  • Rectify the outcomes of actions and decisions when necessary
  • Give credit where it’s due
  • Inspire workforce members to follow their lead

Why Is Accountability in Leadership Important?

Accountability in leadership is vital for the following reasons:

  • Accountability encourages team members to stay rooted in honesty and integrity. Making mistakes is inevitable in the workplace. Instead of sweeping them under the rug, an accountable leader acknowledges errors and grows from them without fear of blame or repercussions. Accountability promotes trust and develops a team driven by learning and growth.
  • Accountability bolsters company culture. When employees at all levels follow through on promises, don’t blame others, and support colleagues in achieving their goals, this fosters a healthy and positive work culture. Individuals at high-trust companies report
    • 74% less stress
    • 50% higher productivity
    • 40% less burnout
  • Accountability enhances performance and engagement. Leaders who lack accountability don’t put their best foot forward and fail to assume responsibility for team members and customers—and when team members witness this, they follow suit. As a result, workforce members may complete the bare minimum just to get by instead of offering their best effort.

Research shows that workforce members are 2.5 times more likely to be engaged in their roles when they have a manager who keeps them accountable for their performance. A leader who embodies accountability can inspire workforce members to be more committed and produce higher-quality work.

What Is a Good Example of Accountability?

Accountability in leadership looks something like this:

  • To help the company reach its quarterly revenue goal, a sales leader commits to boosting sales by 10%. When the leader realizes that their team doesn’t have enough deals in the pipeline to meet that goal, they work with their team members to create a feasible plan.
  • The sales manager creates a mentorship plan to help underperforming team members. The manager establishes specific performance metrics they and the team members can follow. The manager also assigns projects to each person to boost their performance and abilities.
  • The leader meets with each team member weekly to coach them and work through any issues.
  • The leader’s commitment to accountability inspires the team to put forth their best effort and achieve the team goal by the end of the quarter.

worker in office on laptop

How Can Leaders Improve Accountability?

As a leader, you can’t force team members to develop a sense of accountability. However, you can create a workplace environment that fosters it.

Here are six actionable ways leaders can achieve those conditions and improve accountability in the workplace.

1. Define What Team Members Are Accountable For

Roughly 93% of team members don’t know what their company is trying to accomplish. As a result, they don’t align with the organization or understand what they are accountable for achieving.

Leaders should take the time to discuss the organization’s main objective and how each team member can contribute to that goal. Leaders must demonstrate accountability by devoting time to defining their team’s responsibilities along the following lines:

  • Precisely what an individual should be working on85% of leaders fail to do this. Definitions may include clear objectives and examples to help guide team members.
  • Clear expectations. What level of quality do you expect from workforce members? What does this level of quality or performance look like?
  • Short- and long-term objectives. Offer individuals the complete picture of organizational objectives and guide them on prioritizing their goals and initiatives.

2. Monitor Progress

Monitoring progress is key to establishing accountability. Keeping track of the progress you’re making not only pushes you to stay accountable for team goals but also drives team members to fulfill their responsibilities. Reports indicate that people have a 65% chance of completing an objective if they have an accountability partner, and that percentage increases to 95% if specific deadlines and regular accountability meetings are established with that person.

You can be that accountability partner for your teammates by helping them monitor progress. Progress monitoring requires leveraging two tools:

  • Milestones: Each goal should have milestones. These smaller subgoals illustrate incremental progress or growth. Every milestone should have a deadline to ensure team members are on track and accountable for their responsibilities.
  • For example, if your goal is to produce a mentorship program concerning a new company objective, the milestones you set in support of that goal may include the following:
    • Meetings with individual mentees to discuss weaknesses and strengths
    • A roadmap outlining specific coaching objectives
    • Feedback from mentees
    • Final approval to green-light a coaching program
  • Performance metrics: Metrics should connect to concrete actions. Some examples of metrics include attendance, the number of deals closed, 360-degree feedback, product defects, and revenue per individual.

Document progress on a platform where all team members can access the milestones and metrics. That way, they can reference a hard copy and track progress. Taking time to revisit these areas during weekly meetings or check-ins is an excellent way to ensure everyone is on track to achieve their goals.

3. Proactively Respond to Challenges and Obstacles

Problems will always arise. Rather than ignoring them, stay accountable for those issues.

Proactively respond to challenges and obstacles by

  • Initiating discussions about the issue with relevant team members. Invite input and avoid criticism. You can leverage the five stages of conflict resolution for productive discussions. Organize potential solutions around common themes.
  • Outlining potential risks, rating the likelihood of each risk, and building an action plan for mitigating those risks.
    Being constructive and action-oriented. Conclude the discussion by outlining clear next steps: Who’s responsible for what? What are task deadlines?

4. Provide Support and Feedback

Providing support and healthy feedback ensures that leaders keep themselves and their teams accountable for their goals. Feedback and support also allow individuals to learn, improve, and grow.

When workforce members feel cared for by their leaders, they’re more likely to contribute the best of themselves to the team.

  • Provide the right tools and resources. When they have the right support mechanisms, team members can accomplish their tasks promptly and effectively. Address roadblocks that prevent a team’s ability to deliver on goals while offering a learning and development experience.
  • Make feedback a two-way street: Leaders should provide team members with constructive feedback but they must also provide opportunities for individuals to give feedback to them. Feedback allows teams and departments to tackle issues, make decisions, and enhance processes collectively.

When both sides take the time to provide and discuss feedback, this helps everyone uphold company and team goals and bolsters accountability.

5. Participate in Accountability Training

Research illustrates that 82% of leaders believe they have “limited to no” ability to instill accountability in others successfully. Helping leaders feel more empowered in driving accountability begins with proper leadership training.

Tools like CMOE’s Effective Delegation & Accountability workshop are excellent resources to leverage. The workshop offers leaders a set of core delegation skills along with practical tools to help them establish accountability. The goal is to help leaders confidently support teams to produce desired results and enhance engagement.

6. Model the Right Behavior

It all comes down to you. Are you modeling the right accountability behaviors? Are you setting a good example for your team?

Though accountability should be everyone’s responsibility, leaders are the driving force behind it. Your behavior dictates what your workforce members interpret as the expectation.

Amplify Accountability at Your Organization with CMOE

For more guidance, lean on CMOE’s Effective Delegation & Accountability workshop. Intended for new and seasoned business leaders, use our workshop to gain more actionable tips that align with your organizational objectives.

Recommended For You:

Leadership Development Workshops

Learn More
About the Author
CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.

Get Exclusive Content Delivered Straight to Your Inbox

When you subscribe to our blog and become a CMOE Insider.

And the best part?

It's 100% free.