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Posted on Jun 16, 2017

The Best Distinction Between Responsibility And Accountability

The Best Distinction Between Responsibility And Accountability

I’m often asked about the difference between Responsibility and Accountability. These are two values I’ve listed as being synonymous, as one of the 17 Common Values found across all organizations.

For some time, I’ve pondered over my selection of Responsibility as the label for this common value, especially since my research showed that Accountability is more often the label applied by Fortune 500 companies.

I finally found an answer, as well as a brilliant distinction between these two values:

“Holding people accountable is looking backwards…being responsible for their success is looking forward.” – Jeff Thompson, MD

I discovered this profound statement on Skip Prichard’s blog from an interview with Dr. Jeff Thompson, chief executive officer emeritus at Gundersen Health System, and author of the book, Lead True: Live Your Values, Build Your People, Inspire Your Community.

Simply stated, effective leaders put people first and empower them to be responsible leaders by focusing on THEIR success. A good leader demonstrates responsibility first, before their people can embrace this value.

Yet, I hear many leaders expressing their “wish” for their people to be more accountable, and wonder what can be done to ‘make them more accountable.’ The reason this approach is difficult to implement is now clear – many leaders focus on their people by looking backwards instead of forwards.

This is akin to spending too much time looking into the rear view mirror when driving, instead of looking forward through the large front window at the wonderful view of where you are heading.

If you want to be a better leader, shift your thinking from Accountability to Responsibility, and focus on the future success of your people. And remember, responsibility starts with you!

Are you forward-looking with every member of your team?

Have you accepted responsibility for the success of your team?