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Responsibility vs. Accountability for Leaders

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Responsibility vs. Accountability – Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they carry distinct meanings. Responsibility identifies who is in charge of specific actions or tasks, whereas accountability specifies who is liable for the consequences of those actions. This differentiation is crucial in the workplace, where roles and obligations vary, and individuals may be responsible for particular duties or accountable for the overall results of a project or decision.

We could say that the confusion between responsibility and being responsible can be interpreted as a failure to separate the obligation to perform a task from the obligation to ensure that it is performed satisfactorily. This is why it is of utmost importance that leaders take a proactive approach in which both concepts are merged, this will translate into support for their team, open and improve communication, and allow all tasks to be completed on time.

In this article, we will clarify some doubts about this important topic, and we will give you some tips that will help you understand these concepts a little more thoroughly.

Summary

  • Taking charge is supreme to success in the workplace. Without it, any organization, no matter what it does, can jeopardize its current and future goals.
  • People on a team, trust leaders more who are not quick to point fingers at others if something doesn’t go as planned, but instead take responsibility for their role in the consequences.
  • If several people are responsible for the outcome of the same task, there is a high risk that each person will think the others are taking responsibility.

7 Ways to know your leader’s responsibility vs. accountability

It is fundamental to understand the meaning of both concepts, and even more relevant is how they apply in our work area. This is due to the fact that a very thin line separates them, although these terms are generally more related to managerial roles, they are important concepts that every team member should handle. We will try to define each term separately, show their differences and how they favor or affect the work.

1. Know the concept of accountability

Accountability refers to the act of taking responsibility. In this culture, it is assumed that each member or member of the company, is responsible for their tasks fully and autonomously. Accountability is what precedes a certain situation or decision-making, which reflects how a person approaches and takes ownership of these results, without making excuses (2).

This concept includes 4 fundamental pillars:

4 fundamental pillars (Source:Arelin Cluet/ Gitnux)

In an organizational context, it must be understood and applied as an internal value, regardless of its hierarchy within the company. As soon as the leaders and each member of the team take charge, the demands and exhaustive controls disappear, because everyone will be responsible for themselves.

2. Get to know the concept of responsibility

Responsibility can be defined as the fact of fulfilling certain obligations or tasks, it also refers to the fact of being responsible to someone or something. Based on this we say that responsibility at work is task-oriented. Each person in the team is responsible for certain tasks that must be fulfilled to complete a project or achieve a goal.

Job responsibility becomes effective when a person completes all of their job duties and complies with company procedures in a professional manner. Being accountable often means that the person may face consequences from some authority if the task is not completed successfully (3).

Accountability is the formal obligation to account for one’s actions to those in higher positions of authority.

3. Responsibility vs. Accountability

AccountabilityAccountability
It’s specific to an individual depending on their role, skills, and strengthsIt can be shared, several people in a team can divide responsibilities
It’s what happens after a situation occurs, i.e. the consequenceIt is what happens while working towards the final objective
It’s associated with and directly linked to the successful completion of assigned tasksIs focused on defined roles and processes that must be implemented to achieve a goal (1)

4. What does it mean to take charge in the workplace?

While we are already clear on the concept of accountability, it is important to know how it is applied or what it entails in the workplace. The key point to know is that a person who takes charge must be responsible for the final results, this ensures that all commitments are fulfilled as established. It also means understanding expectations before making commitments.

Accountability is mostly limited to a single person, however, within an organization, every member should have a sense of fulfillment in mind without the need for someone to remind them.

5. What does accountability mean in the workplace?

Being responsible in your workplace is being able to respond and complete tasks, it also means knowing how to deal with consequences if these tasks are not completed successfully. Responsibility in the workplace can be shared with your work team. This is because most tasks require a variety of skills and competencies.

It is critical to the company that each member, regardless of seniority level or rank, is equally responsible for helping the company succeed. If goals are to be achieved, long or short-term, everyone should work together and share responsibility. Employees working together toward the same goal make the business more productive and efficient.

5. How do you build a culture of accountability?

Here are some recommendations that you can apply:

  1. Understand the type of work and role you are in charge of, and know the team that carries it out. This will turn into a point in your favor when making decisions.
  2. Encourage feedback from those members of the team you are in charge of. Always take these comments into account when planning.
  3. Encourage open and fluid communication with your work team. It is important to understand and be clearly understood.
  4. Be sincere and honest, these are qualities that are valued and sought after in management or leadership positions.
  5. Try to make good and quick decisions.

6. Can a person be responsible but not in charge?

If you have asked yourself this question, the answer is yes. It is common to get jobs where you only have certain responsibilities, for which you are not asked to follow up on the consequences of fulfilling or not fulfilling these tasks. Generally, taking charge is usually reserved for management positions or team leaders. This is because they are responsible for the actions and consequences of the work of the people they are in charge of.

However, each person or member of the organization should and must take ownership of each task assigned to them. In order to achieve accountability, it is necessary for each person to accept projects that they can carry out and, more importantly, deliver them with the highest possible level of quality.

7. Tips for Managers to Develop Accountability and Responsibility

  • Start by being an example of what you want to see in the company.
  • Strive to create a trusting and communicative environment where people’s ideas and concerns are heard.
  • Build trust, listen, and understand people’s concerns, ideas, and problems.
  • Propose metrics for team members, and let everyone know that they will be measured.
  • Keep employees happy, this encourages productivity.
  • Be supportive, show people you are there if necessary, and praise when things go well.
  • Don’t punish people for making mistakes, but make it clear that mistakes have consequences.

Read about Leadership Goals

Conclusion

At this point, we can already understand how valuable both concepts are at the organizational level. It is inevitable to think that success in the workplace depends on this. When responsibilities are fulfilled and each team member takes charge, this creates a well-founded foundation in the organization.

You cannot be successful without accountability. Each person on the team and leader must work together to ensure that the company’s goals are achieved, but leaders must own the end result. A leader’s ability to understand and take responsibility is critical to business success.

References

1. Accountability and responsibility at work (with 7 tips for managers). https://historiadelaempresa.com/. (2013). Retrieved September 19, 2022.
Source

2. Henning, G. (2020, April 26). Difference between Accountability and Responsibility. Linkedin. Retrieved September 15, 2022.
Source

3. Indeed Editorial Team (2021, September 30). The Difference Between Responsibility vs Accountability at Work. Indeed. Retrieved September 15, 2022.
Source

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