In my book Accountable Leaders, I share the core idea that accountability ultimately differentiates great leaders from mediocre ones. Accountable leaders act like a water ripple in a pond. Their actions inspire others to step up. You see, accountability breeds accountability. But guess what, it works the other way as well: mediocrity can breed mediocrity.
As you look at the challenges and opportunities that await in the new year, I encourage you to make leadership accountability a priority.
Here are 15 ways to inspire you:
- Set the tone. As a leader, you cannot demand anyone else be accountable unless you are first accountable. It starts with you. Have clear sense of purpose to lead effectively in challenging times. It helps motivate you when the going gets tough. Ask yourself, how will I create enduring value for my customers, employees and key stakeholders?
- Look externally. When the pressure is high, many leaders can become heads down and internally focused. Guard against this. Learn to navigate uncertainty by regularly looking externally to spot opportunities, identify threats and anticipate risks.
- Create clarity. Accountable leaders focus their energy on creating strategic clarity. They help their teams prioritize what is essential, which reduces confusion and establishes accountability for results.
- Demonstrate optimism. In times of adversity, people look to their leaders for a sense of hope and direction. Bringing positive energy and genuine enthusiasm to the teams you lead is important.
- Define expectations. Accountable leaders take to identify and communicate the behavioral expectations they have of their team. They also call out misaligned behaviors when they surface. Ask yourself, what are the five or six key behaviors that you and your team must live up to?
- Invest in relationships. Strong relationships lead to better teamwork and business outcomes. So take the time to get to know your colleagues and actively repair strained relationships. What relationships will be critical to your success in 2023?
- Tackle the tough stuff head-on. Accountable leaders demonstrate the resolve to address challenging and difficult issues. Whether it is managing a poor performer, giving candid feedback to a peer, or making a tough decision, do not shy away from leadership’s hard work.
- Support the team. Accountable leaders continually monitor the workload and stress levels of their teams. They show compassion and provide emotional support in times of adversity. They also look for ways to help their colleagues be successful. They are not bystanders. Actively reach out to act as a sounding board or offer resources to help during crunch times. Ask yourself: Who needs my support right now?
- Use recognition to inspire confidence. Regularly acknowledge the contributions of your teams and find ways to celebrate important milestones. These actions serve to increase engagement and personal commitment.
- Ask for feedback. When was the last time you asked for honest and meaningful feedback? When you do, you send a powerful message to your team. The feedback will help you confirm your leadership strengths. It also helps uncover blind spots that may be getting in your way.
- Bring a one-company mindset. Accountable leaders bring a company-wide perspective to everything they do, even if they lead a team, function or department. They work to break down silos so that innovation and collaboration can flourish. Part of this is continually putting what is best for their organization ahead of what is best for them. This serves to inspire the people they lead and helps minimize unhealthy politics or distractions.
- Build a sense of community. Accountable leaders find ways to unify and bring people together, rather than create division. They focus on creating cohesion, alignment and a sense of camaraderie, all of which are critical now as many are working virtually and may be feeling isolated and disconnected.
- Cultivate credibility. If you want to get anything done in organizations today, you will need strong credibility. Sure, you can rely on your position, title or power as a leader, but these only get you so far. Deliberately take time to build credibility at a personal and team level by being transparent.
- Be a good follower. A leader who is a lousy follower is as much of a liability as one who is mediocre and unaccountable. Accountable leaders know when to take the lead and when you need to support others when they are leading. Are you a good follower?
- Practice humility. Leaders who possess a healthy dose of humility are inspiring. They have no problem asking for help or giving credit to someone else’s idea. They admit when they do not know something and can laugh at their shortcomings. They also apologize when they make a mistake. Leadership is hard work, and you will not be perfect. So, if you have a misstep or an outright failure, do not react or get defensive. Instead, own it. Learn from the experience and move on. You will set a powerful example for others.
Becoming a truly accountable leader requires a deep sense of commitment. You don’t get there overnight. It is a constant journey that asks you to evaluate your progress and recommit to stepping up every single day. I wish you good luck and success as you implement these steps for better accountability in 2023.
DEEP DIVE FOR CEOs:
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The Fastest Way to Drive Company Performance
New research has detailed the link between leadership accountability and high performance. We’ll share this research, the exact characteristics of accountability and how you can measure and systematically drive the performance your organization needs.