Sunday, November 27, 2011

What Does the Term ‘Accountability’ Mean to You?

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) said “hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anyone expects of you. Never excuse yourself.” I wonder how many political leaders, business leaders and even parents around the world hold themselves to a belief such as this.

Not meaning to be cynical but I see more and more examples of leaders stating they are accountable, until it comes the time to actually be accountable when, too commonly, a platitude of excuses spout forth and ‘we the public’ seem to swallow them every time.

Yet an anonymous source gives the following quote “when you blame others, you give up your power to change.” This is so true, as while one is blaming or misdirecting to avoid ‘ones accountability’ you lose that precious opportunity to be transparent and to implement the actions for change. Since as Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) stated “action springs not from thought, but from the readiness for responsibility.”

In fact the truth may be in George Bernard Shaw’s words – “liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”

An interesting way to look at Accountability is that it starts with Action and ends with You: -

A – Action
C – Commitment
C – Culture
O – Ownership
U – Understanding
N – Non-Negotiable
T – Tenacious
A – Attainable
B – Behaviour
I – Integrity
L – Learning
I – Innovative
T – Talent
Y – You

It was Ronald Regan who said “we must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the law breaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for their actions.” So with so many people talking about accountable, why is the principle still not being applied as the rule rather than the exception – why can’t society hold those in higher office, in politics and business, to account – it was my limited understanding that this was a cornerstone of the principles of democracy.

Finally Catherine Pulsifer, one of the authors of ‘Inspirational Words of Wisdom’, makes two great statements. First that “you are accountable for your actions, your decisions, your life and no one else but you.” And Secondly that, “we are accountable for our decisions in our personal life, so why shouldn’t we be just as accountable in our work life.”

Surely, until us grown-ups start being held accountable, how can we expect today’s youth – the future leaders of our world – to accept and even grasp the concept.


Henrik Edberg. 7 Timeless Thoughts on Taking Responsibility for Your Life.

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