The Bare Facts about Accountability

Story-telling has been one of the oldest and lasting methods for imparting important lessons from one generation to the next. No matter the culture, complex issues could be dealt with by evoking a fable-like tale for the most fundamental facts. So, today we’d like to explore the critical nature of Accountability by reviewing the escapades of a renowned emperor.

Historical records reveal that the story of the ruler who wanted new clothes had been told in Persian, Spanish and German civilizations long before Hans Christian Andersen penned his popular version in the 1830s. The emperor, in awe of his own importance, fell for the flattery of two weavers who promised him a suit worthy of someone in his esteemed position. When they began to “clothe” the monarch with an imaginary outfit, they also mentioned that only a person who was “hopelessly stupid” wouldn’t be able to see the emperor’s amazing attire.

Given his prideful nature, the emperor raved about his incredible new clothes—then he went on parade before his leaders and subjects, awaiting their words of praise. Sadly, not one of this ruler’s family member or friends warned him about the ridiculous situation he’d gotten himself into. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the honesty of a small child in the crowd who finally exclaimed the truth, that emperor might never have owned up to the fact that he was marching around completely naked!

Unfortunately, we are living in times when this tale takes on more meaning than ever before. We see leaders at all levels of professional life—from politics to public organizations to non-profits—operating under the distorted reality of zero accountability. Even when making the most obvious mistakes, people around them seem to either look the other way or, worse, laude their embarrassing efforts. Rather than speak the truth, these supposed supporters are repeatedly letting their leaders head down dangerous paths, which also puts everyone following them in peril!

Exceptional leaders, however, want to be held accountable. Here are some of bare facts you and your team need to know about mutual accountability:

  1. Accountability is intricately linked to responsibility. This means you and your team members are responsible to one another for the success of your Corporate Family.
  1. Accountability is a top-down, principle-driven process. Executive leaders must role model their ability to accept open, honest opinions, ideas, and, yes, even criticism—and then they must cascade these high performance skill sets throughout their organization.
  1. When an individual, at any level, is not operating according to the agreed upon Values, Beliefs, and Behavior Patterns of your Corporate Culture, your employees should feel empowered to directly talk to that person about the situation.
  1. No one should be able to hide behind personality, power, position, or politics to avoid being accountable. Everyone on your team—including you—must exhibit the highest level of responsibility for attitudes and actions.

High Performance Leaders and their teams are always accountable to one another, and they often tend to be part of organizations that are productive and profitable. The transparency they strive for isn’t woven out of ethereal flattery or fiction, but instead this kind of powerful leadership is knit with a kindred spirit of honesty and integrity that not only stands the test of time but also leaves a lasting legacy.