Accountability and Ownership
“Accountability separates the wishers in life from the action-takers that care enough about their future to account for their daily actions.” – John Lemme
“Accountability is a statement of personal promise, both to yourself and to the people around you, to deliver specific defined results.” – Brian Dive
“Hold yourselves accountable before you are held accountable.” – Umar ibn al–Khattab
“Leaders must develop a lower threshold for alibis and become better communicators and enforcers of what they want done. Holding people accountable to high standards and results is nothing to apologize for. Failing to stretch them to their potential is.” – Dave Anderson
“On good teams coaches hold players accountable, on great teams players hold players accountable.” – Joe Dumars
“Accountability is the glue that ties commitment to the result.” – Bob Proctor
“Success on any major scale requires you to accept responsibility… in the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have is the ability to take on responsibility.” – Michael Korda
“Having authority implies accountability. If you reject the blame for failures under your watch, people reject your leadership.” – Rick Warren
“True leaders accept responsibility for the outcomes of their decisions and actions.” – John Wooden
There are two words most people dread: Accountability and Ownership. Most failures and tragedies in life stem from lack of ownership and accountability to ourselves and others. When we stop been accountable for our actions and the promises we make, things fall apart pretty fast.
When we are accountable for our relationships, skill sets, finances, health, time, property we tend to succeed and improve. The key reason is that we build trust and confidence first and foremost in ourselves and amongst others.
When others trust what we say and our actions align with our promises then the world is our oyster. We can be entrusted with leadership and the responsibility it entails.
What is Accountability?
: the quality or state of being accountable
especially : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions
public officials lacking accountability
Accountability Accountability | English meaning – Cambridge Dictionary
the fact of being responsible for what you do and able to give a satisfactory reason for it, or the degree to which this happens:
There were furious demands for greater police accountability.
Accountability is important these days, and managers aren’t always willing to adopt risky strategies.
The Dreaded End of Term Report Card
There are distinct memories in my life and one of them that will always stick in my memory was the end of term session in both Primary and Secondary School. This meant receiving a report card with my grades and overall position in class.
The key reason I dreaded this moment was that I had to face my parents and present this report to them. What all of us kids dreaded was presenting the report card to our mother. She was a strict disciplinarian and had zero tolerance for poor performance.
In her eyes any time you were not in the top three in class you had failed. We expected strokes of the cane administered if you were out of this range. This incentive of pain had the effect of ensuring all my siblings and I graduated out of college.
I do remember one scene vividly, my late brother climbing and hiding in a tree to avoid getting punished. He had fallen out of the safe range to the 4th position in class. It took my father to coax him to climb down the tree later in the evening but my mum still administered her punishment.
That was my mum who ensured we were held accountable for our grades and performance at School. We knew the consequences awaiting us and it worked wonders to propel us to the top of our class. She held the end of her bargain as a Parent and ensured her children performed to the best of their ability.
Back to Basics
I live in a developing country where the cancer called corruption rules the day. I have personally witnessed the devastating effects corruption has on a country. It grinds down the ability of a society to function normally and effectively.
The diversion of public resources for personal gain is an ill that devastates societies. Making the quick buck, lack of accountability and stewardship leads any family, community and nation to ruin. It is the most insidious evil that any nation can tolerate.
Broken and rundown infrastructure is the norm of the day in such countries. Law and order is not observed as almost every official is on the take. Very few basic services function as intended as all resources and tax revenue are diverted to patronage.
This is a pernicious and dangerous ill. Once allowed to take hold and root of any society brings that society to sure ruin and destruction in the long term.
2022 Corruption Perception Index
Top 10 Countries with the least perceived corruption
Top 10 Countries with the worst perceived corruption
The Tables above are directly correlated with the quality of life in all these countries. The citizens in the countries with high corruption scores have some of the lowest quality of life for their citizens. Nepotism and mediocrity rule the day.
Life is short, brutish and nasty in these countries. Life expectancies of the citizens are also low as these are societies are where ‘Survival of the fittest” is the daily norm.
That’s how devastating lack of accountability and corruption can be to an entire nation and society.
Jerry John Rawlings
Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings was the 7th President of the Republic of Ghana. Ghana is one of the most prominent countries in Africa and is located in the Western half of the continent. Jerry Rawlings came into power by deposing his predecessor Lieutenant- General Fred Akuffo in a Coup d’ etat.
Ghana gained it’s independence as a colony from British rule in the year 1960. It was led under civilian rule by its first leader the famous Kwame Nkrumah. He was deposed by the Military in the year 1966, with only a brief spell of civilian rule, the country was led by Military Rulers till 1993.
This period of Military Rule was marked by economic decline and entrenched corruption in government. Jerry Rawlings then a young lieutenant in the military got disgusted by the state of affairs in government.
He took it upon himself to change this state of affairs and eliminate corruption in the country. He organized a Military Coup in the year 1979 and deposed the then Military Ruler Fred Akuffo. This was part of a drastic clean-up, he had three former Presidents executed due to their past corruption and deeds.
He also led a purge of the most corrupt government officials including the execution of Supreme Court Judges that where deemed corrupt. This action may seem to have been brutal and overboard but corruption is a cancer that can only be rooted out by drastic action.
Jerry Rawlings served for 19 more years till the Year 2011. He had two terms as a Civilian President ultimately becoming Ghana’s longest serving ruler. His rule stabilized Ghana and most importantly gave it the foundation to restore patriotism and civic pride in the body public.
Lee Kuan Yew
Lee Kuan Yew was the founding father and Prime Minister of the City State- Singapore. He ruled the country from the year 1959 to the year 1990. He transformed Singapore from a back water, undeveloped country to a developed nation within his tenure of office.
He believed in accountability and excellence. He knew the only way to propel Singapore to the top was to curb the vice of corruption and ensure meritocracy ruled the day. He believed in harsh punishment and corporal punishment to set standards and consequences for the nation
He promoted high education standards and encouraged multi-national companies to set up base in Singapore. This changed the culture of the citizens and introduced them to international standards and the attendant work ethics.
Singapore is still held as a standard for excellence in the world today. He introduced a premier culture and thought process in his citizens that has endured to this day.
Where lack of Accountability Begins
Parenting and Boundaries
They were good reasons why divorce was a rare occurrence in days gone by. In my own cultural tradition background polygamy was the norm and divorce was not tolerated unless prevailing circumstances were quite dire to necessitate a break.
Marriage was not meant for ‘love’ but procreation. Caring and bringing up the next generation was the key objective for marriage. If two individuals were lucky to bond it was an added benefit to them but they all understood the primary objective of marriage; procreation and taking care of the next generation.
Couples were not only accountable to their immediate families but the entire community at large. Parenting was serious business. If you lapsed in your duties the consequences were severe. Men who deserted and failed to provide and take care of their wives and families got severe corporal punishment.
The same applied to women who deserted their families. Severe punishment awaited them as it was considered a great disgrace to their immediate and extended families. Accountability at this level was severe as the indirect consequences to the community were severe.
Statistics time and time again have shown that the most delinquent children and criminals in most societies are from broken homes or have a background where accountability and consequences for personal actions were not enforced.
Children have to be taught accountability and boundaries early enough in life. If this is not taught at home society will impart the lesson to them harshly. There are formal and informal rules in any society. Breaking these rules normally results in consequences.
The Bible clearly states it ‘Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child’ You would rather take the time to impart and teach your child values, norms and rules that help them coexist peacefully and in harmony with other individuals. The world can give a harsh lesson that can be also life terminating for unruly individuals.
Religion and Civics Education
Societies that have a break down in Religious and Civic education will fare terribly in the long run. Religion has always existed from time immemorial to impart morals, accountability and ethics in Society. Religion tames man’s worst nature and tendencies.
Religion coupled with Civic education helps all citizens understand the importance of stewardship and accountability for their actions. When the majority of citizens have a sense of ownership and responsibility for their society the outcome is generally positive for society as a whole.
Performance reports are the ultimate form of accountability. One of the World’s Premier Management Consultants the late Peter Drucker stated it clearly “What gets measured gets done.” and ‘What is not measured cannot be improved’ . This is why metrics are important.
Most of us have come across the phrase Key Performance Indicators. This means the quantification and measurement of key results you expect out of any entity. This can be an individual, community, organization, nation or globe as a whole.
Accounting and Financial Reports
Accounting is literally record keeping. Financial reporting is a snapshot of the state of a company’s financial health at a particular period of time. The ultimate scorecard for an organization or company are its Financial reports.
Most individuals in any company dread dealing with the Finance department as they control the budget and costs of the company. They enforce accountability across the company and monitor the overall financial health of the company.
The Ministry of Finance or Treasury is considered one of the top two critical dockets in any country. The Defense and Finance Portfolios have the disproportionate attention of the President or ruler of any country.
Accountants are a vital cog in any company. The numbers never lie. Companies that face their financial dashboards and act on these reports usually fare well in the long run. There is a reason why a lot of importance is placed on audited financial reports.
Audits ensure that a Company’s Financial Statements truly reflect the accounting records and supporting evidence in place. There is a reason why accountants and audit firms are some of the highest paid individuals. They ensure a firm’s accountability to it’s shareholders and owners is in place.
Scientific method is rooted and stems from accountability.
Definition of Scientific Method Scientific method – Wikipedia
The scientific method is an empirical method for acquiring knowledge that has characterized the development of science since at least the 17th century (with notable practitioners in previous centuries; see the article history of scientific method for additional detail.) It involves careful observation, applying rigorous skepticism about what is observed, given that cognitive assumptions can distort how one interprets the observation.
It involves formulating hypotheses, via induction, based on such observations; the testability of hypotheses, experimental and the measurement-based statistical testing of deductions drawn from the hypotheses; and refinement (or elimination) of the hypotheses based on the experimental findings. These are principles of the scientific method, as distinguished from a definitive series of steps applicable to all scientific enterprises.
Human progress in the physical realm has been based on the Scientific Method. Without integrity and accurate Scientific testing and innovation, the world would still be stuck in the medieval ages where we could not explore the phenomena of nature.
Without accountability the bridges, roads, aircraft and other key infrastructure we take for granted would not be able to stand. Science is exact and is not tolerant to any subjective measures. We cannot cheat and expect true results.
The adage ‘Garbage In and Garbage Out’ is a truism in the Scientific Field. You cannot fudge reports and expect miracles in this field. Integrity and accountability are key tenets in this field. One plus one is two. It can never be three or four.
Successful Individuals and Communities
If you study some of the most successful individuals or leaders they hold one key trait. They are accountable to themselves and their communities. They are stewards and most activities they undertake are usually successful.
Everyone wants to associate with them as they trust them to deliver on their promises.
3 Key Traits of Accountable Individuals
- They don’t GIVE EXCUSES they operate under a zero-tolerance policy of NO EXCUSES both from themselves, their loved ones and any other parties they deal with.
- They stake their reputation on their promises and commitments. They will go to the end of the earth to ensure they deliver on their promises
- They understand their key priorities and hold themselves accountable to achieve their key goals no matter what happens
Take time and read the biographies of John D Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Nelson Mandela, Elon Musk, Napoleon and other notable leaders or generals. They set targets and focused on their goals and tolerated no excuses till objectives were met.
We know the areas where we are falling short and not holding our feet to the fire. This is one great aspect of we human beings we have the ability to self-reflect.
Think of what total accountability would mean to you. It normally is the bridge between great success or failure. Embrace accountability and it will do wonders in your life.
No Excuses! The Power of Self-Discipline – Brian Tracy
Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win – Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
No More Excuses: The Five Accountabilities for Personal and Organizational Growth – Sam Silverstein