What does accountability mean to Markus Jooste or you?

It should come as no surprise to hear that Markus Jooste does not see himself as being responsible in any way for the Steinhoff value implosion.

That’s one of the reasons why this generation is referred to as the most unaccountable generation ever. But accountability is a two-way street.

Modern leadership has become synonymous with unaccountability. Pick any leader in the public or private sector who has chosen to enrich him or herself at the expense of others and you will find someone who does not see themselves as having done anything wrong at all.

Fact is, such leaders are so blinded by their own arrogance and sense of power that they could not for one minute imagine that they could or should be held accountable for their actions.

Recent revelations of supposedly once credible companies that have engaged in highly corrupt actions have exposed that they have not seen the need to be held accountable for any wrong doing. Some have naively thought that, by offering to pay back the money they charged for their services which have now been exposed as corrupt, they will absolve themselves from any and all blame. That’s a joke – like a gang of cash in transit robbers who, when caught with their loot, offer to give the money back under the impression that they could then walk away free people.

I have said it before but I’m going to say it again because I believe it bears repeating: when someone sets out to deceive others, the first person they deceive is themselves. And once that happens, all bets are off when it comes to any honesty. They have genuinely deceived themselves into thinking that they have done nothing wrong. Hence Jooste’s protestations and explanations regarding his “innocence”.

But before we get all huffy just thinking about other deceitful people, it might be a good exercise to examine our own level of accountability.

You can assess your own accountability by how you have taken (or not taken) responsibility for your own actions. It might range from seemingly minor matters like trying to wriggle out of paying a speeding ticket to refusing to take responsibility for the breakdown of a relationship or a failure to deliver at work.

If you have tried to blame someone else for your actions or lack of performance, you may be refusing to accept responsibility and accountability. To give you an idea of how rare it is to find someone who is prepared to be held accountable, ask yourself when last you heard someone say, “I did it. It’s my fault.”

Mmmm … Thought not!

The problem few people realise they create for themselves is that you can’t expect accountability from anyone else until you’re prepared to hold yourself accountable for your own actions and statements. This applies to our work and our family life. If you’re not prepared to be accountable at work, you’re not going to be able to hold your staff accountable. They’re going to sense this and will become a law unto themselves as they realise you will never confront them because you are afraid to be confronted yourself.

Of course, when you hold yourself accountable, you have nothing to fear and will be quite happy to hold those who report to you accountable for their actions.

If you’re not prepared to be accountable for your actions in your home, you’re not going to be able to hold your children accountable for their actions. You can try, and you may well think you’re getting it right simply because you’re the adult and they’re the child but, when that child grows into adulthood, the chickens come home to roost and you can’t understand why your adult child is evasive, deceitful and such a loser because s/he never wants to be held accountable for anything.

Managers and parents have failed to understand this basic of the most basic principles of accountability. Accountability all starts with you. You can’t think it should apply to others but not you – that you’re somehow exempt from being held accountable. When you start to be accountable yourself, you acquire authority and can then insist on things being done properly.

I urge you to look at your own level of accountability and, if you think it needs to be improved, have the courage to do the necessary. Once you stop blaming others for your failure to deliver and take responsibility for yourself, you will be able to expect accountability from those who report to you. We really need more people who hold themselves and others accountable. Please be one of them!

Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag. He is a recognised authority on leadership skills for the future and teaches business leaders and managers of all generations how to lead with integrity, purpose and agility. In 2018, he was named by US-based web site Disruptordaily.com as one of the “Top 25 Future of Work Influencers to Follow on Twitter“.

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