Leadership accountability: What it looks like, why it matters


Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

A good leader sets clear goals, follows through on promises and cultivates a culture of responsibility within an organization. Leaders who acknowledge errors with humility and transparency earn their team members’ and stakeholders’ trust and respect, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and long-term success.

Prioritizing accountability is one of the signs of a good leader because it drives better results and enhances employee engagement and overall company performance.

Accountability in leadership impacts company culture. Leaders who exemplify accountability set the foundation for a positive company culture, where responsibility and commitment are valued, and mistakes are acknowledged with transparency.

What does leadership accountability look like? Here are some signs:

Establishes what accountability means to the team: A leader’s accountability to team members builds trust and respect, as it shows they value the contributions and well-being of each individual. By being accountable to employees, a leader demonstrates empathy and actively listens to their concerns, enabling them to address challenges and implement necessary improvements. This boosts morale and motivation, leading to increased productivity and loyalty.

Builds relationships with the team: Leaders are responsible for facilitating open communication and encouraging a supportive work environment, which creates opportunities for team members to interact, exchange ideas, and share their expertise. Accountability in management also means promoting teamwork and interdependence, ensuring everyone’s contributions are valued and recognized. Through team-building activities, regular meetings, and inclusive decision-making processes, leaders create a sense of belonging and purpose, reinforcing that the team’s success is a collective effort. As trust grows among team members, they become more willing to take risks, offer feedback, and seek assistance, leading to improved problem-solving and increased productivity.

Takes responsibility for mistakes: Taking responsibility and owning up to mistakes is a hallmark of accountability in leadership. A leader who faces challenges and seeks solutions demonstrates resilience and a commitment to growth. On the other hand, avoiding accountability is a sign you’re a bad leader, as it erodes trust and undermines the team’s confidence in their direction. By taking ownership of mistakes and actively working on remedies, a leader sets an example of integrity and fosters a culture where learning from failures is embraced. This approach leads to continuous improvement and strengthens the bond between a leader and their team, empowering everyone to overcome obstacles and achieve success collaboratively.

Believes in transparency: Transparency can take various forms, but it is based on open sharing of information. For leaders, transparency is essential as it boosts motivation, enhances decision-making and creates a positive work environment. When employees understand their contribution to the bigger picture and see leaders being honest and open, trust and loyalty flourish, leading to improved collaboration and overall success.

Gathers employee feedback: To be held accountable by employees, leaders must embrace employee feedback and use it to find solutions and drive positive change. By actively seeking input and listening to their perspectives, leaders foster a culture of trust and empowerment. Employee engagement surveys effectively capture confidential feedback, providing valuable insights into the organization’s strengths and areas for improvement. A leader who values employee feedback demonstrates a commitment to continuous growth and gains a deeper understanding of the team’s needs, aspirations, and concerns, enabling them to make informed decisions that lead to a more engaged and motivated workforce.

Bob Helbig is media partnerships director at Energage, a Philadelphia-based employee survey firm. Energage is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s survey partner for Top Workplaces. To nominate your organization as a Top Workplace, go to ajc.com/TWPnominate.