Good Leaders Don’t Hold People Accountable


Old school managers who have an autocratic style (military, dictatorial, or authoritarian) are big into holding people accountable.  One of my earlier managers as I entered the job market operated this way and was proud of it.  He consistently harped on his “accountability checklist”.  He was an extreme micro-manager.   He had his fingers in everything.  All aspects of the people’s daily task, he was involved.  Overtime his people started to push back and rebel against his methods.  They began only doing the bare minimums of what was expected.  He could only pay attention to a few things at a time and those are the only things his people put any effort into doing the right way and it was minimum at best.  Everything else they cut corners.  When you hold people accountable you have to be prepared to take action when they don’t do what you ask.

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19 thoughts on “Good Leaders Don’t Hold People Accountable

  1. drplexico says:

    Catchy title and insightful recommendations!

  2. Kerwyn Hodge says:

    I loved the post and agreed with almost everything…except, perhaps, the use of the word “accountable.” Not that you used it incorrectly; it certainly fits with the definition. Yet accountability isn’t a bad thing. In fact, you used it positively above by saying, “When your people are focused they hold themselves accountable.” The key isn’t in that people have to report on their actions. That’s a necessary function of business, and all good leaders receive such reports. However, when those on your team make the report, do they expect you to browbeat them for failing? Or do they instead know that you’ll help them achieve those goals? Ultimately, if you do the latter, you’re a much better leader, even as you mentioned. Additionally, micro-managing is both ineffective and exhausting. Instead, establish goals, trust people to reach them, and follow up to insure they’re on the right track.

    • Mike Rodbell says:

      I agree with Kerwyn. People will frequently confuse accountability and micro-management. They needn’t (and shouldn’t) be one and the same. I absolutely agree that you’ll stifle people if you watch and question every move that they make. That said, you’re going to do yourself, your employer, and the employee a disservice if you don’t arrive at goals that the employees strive, and need to attain. Those goals should be level appropriate, and a means through which everyone can assess success or failure.

  3. I am so glued to reading your posts. They just simplify complex relational issues between superiors and surbodinates.

  4. Rajiv says:

    Hey, this is good. This is a very different way from the way that I have been used to, in the past

  5. Love the “are you on target with your goals?” I’m totally using that! What a great idea! I have two employees that I can let go because I know they will normally meet their deadlines, but I have one that I feel like I have to hold accountable. I’m going to try your questions next time!

  6. […] Good Leaders Don’t Hold People Accountable by Cranston Holden […]

  7. adrianriojas says:

    I AGREE! I think this looks at things more from an OD perspective! Thanks for sharing!

  8. […] way. Instead of holding people accountable you will get better results by keeping them focused.” Whilst I think I understood where he was coming from I think there’s a need to define what […]

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