Accountability Goes Public

If you haven’t heard, the city of Flint, Michigan, has been suffering from a water contamination crisis for over a year… the residents are now not only raising health concerns, but calling for the arrest of Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder. In his State of the State address, Snyder apologized to the people, saying,

“I’m sorry, and I will fix it.”  …. and ”I’m sorry most of all that I let you down. You deserve better. You deserve accountability. You deserve to know that the buck stops here with me. Most of all, you deserve to know the truth, and I have a responsibility to tell the truth.”  [ Report on Gov. Snyder’s State of the State Address by Adito Simiai Tiwari, 1/20/16  HNGN.com]

Now that I have your attention let’s turn to that word – ACCOUNTABILITY. Because the word “accountability” is used so frequently and is considered to be so critical to a leader’s success, in 2014 we took a deeper look at what it should or could mean.


We searched for research or white papers on accountability, and discovered remarkably few at that time. The best we found was a paper “Toward a new understanding of leader accountability: defining a critical construct,” by Bruce E. Winston in The Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, March 22 2005. 


In the article Winston proposes 3 crucial parts of the definition of accountability:

  1. the leader’s willing acceptance of the responsibilities inherent in the leadership position to serve the well-being of the organization;
  2. the implicit or explicit expectation that he/she will be publicly linked to his/her actions, words, or reactions; and
  3. the expectation that the leader may be called on to explain his or her beliefs, decisions, commitments, or actions to constituents.”

I’m afraid many leaders today accept the first part, (the responsibility of the position), but are not ready or willing to practice the 2nd and 3rd parts (being willing to be known for decisions and being willing to explain oneself in public). People and politicians are now demanding Snyder also practice the second and third parts. Only time will tell if Michigan’s citizenry go along with his public explanations and future actions.


Click on these links for our full synopsis or Summary of the Accountability article AND a FREEBIE Leadership Accountability Self-Check.

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