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  • Writer's pictureHouria Bellatif

The Power of Accountability: Taking ownership and addressing barriers

Accountability and responsibility are often used interchangeably, but they hold distinct meanings. Responsibility refers to the obligation to act or make decisions, while Accountability involves being answerable for the outcomes of those decisions or actions. Accountability is frequently misused or overused in today's society, leading to a lack of trust and skepticism. However, genuine Accountability is crucial for personal and professional growth, fostering a culture of trust, clarity, and consistency. In this article, we will explore the significance of Accountability, the barriers that hinder it, and actionable steps to cultivate a more accountable mindset.

Research data indicates that Accountability is fundamental to the success of individuals and organizations. Unsurprisingly, employees who feel accountable for their work are more engaged and committed to their organizations (According to a survey conducted by Gallup). Why does it come up in many leadership discussions as a concern? What makes it not so easy to achieve and cultivate?

Accountability is not merely a buzzword

One of the primary challenges in cultivating Accountability is the misuse of the concept itself. Individuals or leaders may promise Accountability but fail to deliver on their commitments. They might deflect blame onto others without acknowledging their own role in a mistake or express remorse without taking action to rectify the situation. These actions undermine the essence of Accountability, eroding trust and impeding progress.

To establish a culture of Accountability, it is crucial to address barriers that hinder its growth:

Fear: Fear of failure, criticism, or adverse consequences can prevent individuals from embracing Accountability. A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that fear of negative evaluation hampers individual Accountability and performance. Leaders must create a supportive environment encouraging risk-taking and emphasizing growth over punishment.

Lack of clarity: When individuals are unclear about their roles, responsibilities, and goals, it becomes challenging to hold them accountable. Research conducted by McKinsey & Company highlights that clear communication and well-defined expectations are vital for fostering Accountability within teams. Providing individuals a clear understanding of their responsibilities empowers them to take ownership and deliver results.

Insufficient resources: Lack of necessary resources or support can hinder individuals' ability to achieve their goals and, consequently, their Accountability. Leaders must ensure that individuals have access to training, mentorship, and relevant information to enable them to fulfill their responsibilities effectively.

Blame-shifting: The tendency to blame others or external factors for failures undermines Accountability. Individual contributors or leaders who engage in blame-shifting are less likely to take responsibility for their actions, thus, diluting any attempt at a culture of personal ownership. 

Avoidance: Avoiding difficult conversations or situations is a common hindrance to Accountability. Leaders must create an open and supportive atmosphere where individuals feel comfortable addressing challenges and conflicts, fostering a sense of collective responsibility. (More on how to lead courageous conversations

Lack of trust: Trust plays a pivotal role in Accountability. When individuals lack trust in their leaders or colleagues, they may hesitate to take ownership of their actions due to a fear of backlash or retaliation. Building trust requires consistent actions, transparency, and open communication to create an environment where individuals feel safe to be accountable.

Inconsistent standards: Inconsistent application of accountability standards leads to confusion and a lack of clarity regarding expectations. 


Accountability is not merely a buzzword but the cornerstone of personal and professional growth. Embracing Accountability requires taking ownership of one's actions, acknowledging mistakes, and actively working toward improvement. The choice is yours; how will you embrace Accountability and make a lasting impact? 

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