Accountability: Are you HELD accountable or ARE you accountable?

  • Published
  • By Maj. Rosalyn Walker
  • 341st Services Squadron commander
As confusing as that may sound there really is a difference. 

To be held accountable is often a result of a primary action or inaction leading to a required follow-up. If an Airman decides to drink alcohol and drive home, the follow-up to that decision may be the exertion of control over the Airman, essentially forcing future right decisions. 

On the other hand, an Airman is considered to be accountable when he or she decides to plan ahead of time to forego driving after having "one too many." 

Although you may not have complete control of someone's decisions and actions, as a leader you certainly have influence. Accountability is fostered throughout the organization at all levels by setting the right example consistently. 

There is nurturing required to create an environment conducive to self actualization of being accountable. This nurturing environment begins with the leader ensuring their followers have expectations, and the proper training and tools necessary to meet standards and accomplish their mission. Further, it is the responsibility of the leader to ensure the standards are met and the mission is accomplished. 

"A duty dodged is like a debt unpaid; it is only deferred, and we must come back and settle the account at last." 
                                                          -- Joseph Fort Newton --
Author Jeffrey A. Zink, who wrote Hammer-Proof: A Positive Guide to Values-Based Leadership, said one of the hardest problems for many leaders is accountability. Making sure members of your organization at least meet the minimum standards and doling out consequences to those who don't is hard. There is never a feeling of elation in discipline or dismissal; however it must be done when necessary. 

When Airmen have to be held accountable for their actions or inactions, other members of the organization are certainly watching and taking note. There in lies the opportunity for the leader to have positive influence. Besides, the impression of no accountability has far worst reaching consequences. No accountability leads to mission failure. 

Accountability is not an a la carte menu to choose from those things you want to be responsible for and cast away everything else that does not appeal to you. 

Unfortunately many people fear accountability. Accountability is not a bad thing! 

To be accountable, it means you have accepted 100 percent responsibility for what has been given or entrusted to you. Have you ever given thought to what you, as an Airman, are entrusted with? Take a look at your oath of enlistment or commissioning. The people of our nation trust us with its freedom and the lives of those who enjoy that freedom. 

Although that is a macro view of accountability, never forget that the very job you accomplish on a daily basis lends to securing that freedom. In our Air Force we have many levels of accountability, however let's bring it into a perspective we are all familiar with: integrity, service and excellence. The leader who owns accountability owns the Air Force's Core Values.