Danger Will Robinson, Danger!

Confusing Accountability with Responsibility can Spell Danger!One symptom of a leader caving to her own ego is one who begins to confuse accountability with responsibility. Accountability is when you own the ultimate result – pass or fail. Responsibility is when you are the one to deliver the result. Too often, I’ve seen good managers cave to their ego and confuse these roles.

Examples of people who confuse the two:

1. The Cover Up: If a manager accepts credit for a success that the team delivered.

2. The Idea Man: If someone believes they deserve credit for the results, only because they had the idea.

3. The One Man Band: When one member of team takes the credit for the entire effort.

Servant leadership means taking accountability when an effort fails but passing along the credit when it succeeds. In contrast, toxic leaders tend to do the reverse. These individuals take credit for success and pass along blame following a failure.

To serve the team, pass along the credit for those responsible in success, even if you were accountable. Those who matter know you were accountable. When an effort fails, accountability remains with the leader and you must pull in that blame from those responsible. Still, you must hold those responsible to the lessons learned. But that is a private matter among the team – not an open forum for flogging.

When your next effort concludes, don’t cover up the results, be an idea man or act like a one man band. Instead, accept accountability for the blame or share the credit with those responsible for the success.

Question: Have you seen someone confuse accountability with responsibility? What was the impact to the team?