Maverick Life


Why accountability is an important skill for leaders

Why accountability is an important skill for leaders
Accountability is the act of being answerable to someone or responsible for something. Image: Unsplash

Accountability in leadership needs to be based on a set of solid core values, personally and in society, argues leadership expert, Bryan Hattingh. 

Accountability is the act of being answerable to someone or responsible for something.  It is a fundamental value, and it is especially important for leaders as they are responsible for setting the tone and culture of their organisation. 

Leaders should lead by example, and that often includes exemplifying accountability for their words and actions; when leaders are not held to account for their decisions or actions, a lack of trust and public confidence in the government and business sectors ensues. 

Establishing integrity and trust

Integrity and trust are essential qualities for any character and they are the foundation for relationships and help to build a strong sense of self. 

To build a character of integrity and trust, one should first define what it means to have integrity and trust; integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles and doing the right thing even when it is difficult; trust is believing that someone is dependable, well-intentioned, honest and is based on mutual respect and understanding. 

Then, one must entrench the importance of making and keeping commitments. A character of integrity and trust is reliable and follows through on their promises. We should practice self-discipline and control of our emotions, thoughts and action, stay focused on meaningful and value-based goals. And of course, be open and honest personally and with others, open to new ideas and perspectives and willing to have difficult conversations. Similarly, we should have the courage to speak the truth and be comfortable with vulnerability. 

Clear intentions 

Crystalised intentionality and a clear sense of purpose are key components of building a character of integrity and trust as they provide the foundation for a person to be resolute in their actions. 

Crystalised intentionality is the process of actively and consciously deciding on a set of values and goals – for example, reflecting on what is truly important and meaningful to us, prioritising our dreams and aspirations, translating these into a set of well-defined goals and then creating a plan of action to reach those goals. 

This process helps to shape a strong sense of self-awareness and a clear understanding of the direction we want to take in life and enables us to remain committed to our values, even in the face of adversity. This, then, leads to creating a sense of responsibility and accountability; with a clear sense of purpose, we are more likely to take ownership of our actions and accept the consequences of our choices. 


An increasing number of people are struggling to make good decisions – this could be exacerbated by factors such as lack of education, experience and access to resources because, without a solid foundation of knowledge and a clear understanding of the topic at hand, it is difficult to make an informed decision; experience is often the best teacher. Finally, a lack of access to resources such as books, research materials and other sources of information can also lead to poor decision-making.

The primary motivator of avoiding loss or making a gain has a significant influence on the choices of people who have little depth of character, or sense of higher meaning and purpose. Such individuals are typically driven by instant gratification, entitlement and looking for shortcuts and quick fixes, and not considering the potential long-term consequences of their actions. 

Goal setting and self-actualisation 

Paul J Meyer, founder of the Success Motivation Institute (SMI) said, “If you are not making the progress that you would like to make and are capable of making, it is simply because your goals are not clearly defined.”

There are a few reasons why so few people practise goal setting: goal setting can be difficult and requires a lot of effort to achieve; it can be difficult to stay motivated and focused on a goal when there are other distractions or competing priorities; many people lack the knowledge and skills needed to effectively set and pursue goals; some people may be hesitant to set goals due to fear of failure or a lack of confidence in their own abilities.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs suggests that people have certain needs that must be met in order for them to reach their full potential. At each level of the hierarchy, one’s ability to be accountable and of integrity is affected. For example, if one’s physiological needs are not met, one may not have the energy or resources to be accountable and of integrity. Similarly, if one’s safety needs are not met, one may lack the requisite sense of security.  If one’s love and belonging needs are not met, one may not have the requisite support or acceptance.  If one’s esteem needs are not met, one may not have the requisite self-confidence or self-respect. 

Finally, if one’s self-actualisation needs are not met, one may not have the motivation or purpose to be accountable and of integrity. 

So, to find a solution to this daunting challenge, the answer might lie fairly and squarely in each of our laps: we can only be accountable for our accountability — and this takes reflection, resolve, pertinacity, and strength of character; to take on broader-based challenges, we have to do so from a position of strength and example. DM/ ML

Bryan Hattingh, CEO of Cycan, a Leadership Actualisation Practice. To read more of his op-eds, click here. 


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