How to Lead by Being Accountable

During your career, lead in team effort, in business, in groups or sports from the first moment of each job, game or assignment until it ends and forever after. It is up to you to be accountable for failings in order to succeed.

“The Buck Stops Here.” (buck -- accountability, making decisions, taking responsibility into your hands). President Harry Truman had that famous sign on his desk at the White House. The phrase refers to "passing the buck," as handing off responsibility, blaming someone else.


  1. Image titled Lead by Being Accountable Step 1
    Succeed as a leader; it's up to you. Compare this leadership to:
    • Pilot of a ship or airplane, a crew chief, officer,
    • Manager, supervisor, chief executive officer (CEO),
    • Pitcher in baseball, a quarterback in football, point guard in basketball, etc.
  2. Image titled Lead by Being Accountable Step 2
    Define leader -- one who makes decisions and accepts the ultimate responsibility for those decisions. That’s how it should be for a leader, whether it’s in politics, schoolwork, sports or business.
  3. Image titled Lead by Being Accountable Step 3
    Hold yourself accountable for your and your team's performance--and expect others to hold you accountable.
    • Do not find someone else to blame for your or your team's failures. “Oh, if only _____________ had done his part, ” or “If ______________ (team member) had done such and such,” or “If they had done better.”
    • If you’re going to be any kind of leader to organize and get new successes out of your people, you can’t suddenly shrink into the background when you encounter crucial problems that all of you need to solve.
  4. Image titled Lead by Being Accountable Step 4
    Avoid pointing the finger publicly. Do not assign blame to others when something goes wrong -- nor seek your own glory for anything well done. Succeed by stopping the buck. Seek for the others to succeed; so then you succeed in their greatness.
  5. Image titled Lead by Being Accountable Step 5
    Give the glory to your team, not just yourself. Teams win; so when you win, it’s time to celebrate the whole team! “We did something great!” Credit your team and your workers for your team's or company's success -- not bragging or being proud; humble yourself to the team effort.
  6. Image titled Lead by Being Accountable Step 6
    Own your mistake (or the team's or work crew's problem). When you fail or lose; say, "I didn't do enough! We can set it up right!" Accept the "buck". Stop the blame game and tell yourself "we will win together, as a great team."
  7. Image titled Lead by Being Accountable Step 7
    Learn. If you’re busy finding scapegoats and assigning blame to events or other people, there’s no learning or motivation happening.
  8. Image titled Lead by Being Accountable Step 8
    Take steps to learn from a mistake. In order to explain problems privately, in office, in a committee, work crew or team, you must take accountability on yourself for what does and will happen.
  9. Image titled Lead by Being Accountable Step 9
    Hold one person responsible for work to succeed, and for failure -- yourself. Don't shirk responsibility. Be positive and upbeat, not down or grudging.
    • Get better each time. Lead your team in a better way. That works because you have a culture of accountability, not of blame.
  10. Image titled Lead by Being Accountable Step 10
    Improve your work and that of your work crew. Use creativity and the courage to seek change for the better. Never show boredom or be complacent.
  11. Image titled Lead by Being Accountable Step 11
    Be persistent. You need some talent, but being persistent and developing industrious traits, staying meaningfully involved and engaged in continual improvement, are more important than native talent. Never stop improving.


  • If it's good news, say that "it was because of our team" -- not saying: "I, me, my, mine" and "my ideas and my plans", whenever things are going well.


  • Your bad news/failing does not get better with age or time, unlike a fine wine.
  • With bad news, avoid saying: “They made mistakes.” “They got it wrong" -- but "We'll improve more!" and "We will fix it right..."

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Leadership and Mentoring