accountability blogA person who does not hold him/herself responsible for what he/she does is not a strong business leader. Seems fairly obvious, does it not? This person may blame other people for his/her non-successes, and fails at accomplishing his/her goals. This brings me to our next Leadership Principle: Accountability. Accountability means exactly what it sounds like—you hold yourself responsible (accountable) for results. Can you imagine any business being successful if its leaders didn’t take responsibility for their thoughts to materialize? If you have a business idea or are starting an initiative, there would be no real motivation to get anything done if you didn’t make yourself personally responsible to make things happen.  

Let’s take an example. You are assigned a team at work to design a presentation for a new product. Jerry is put in charge of graphics, but doesn’t deliver on his duty. Who is ultimately accountable? Not you, just Jerry? No, the presentation was your responsibility, as well as Jerry’s, and the fact that it’s incomplete means you all failed. It is nearly impossible to achieve anything as a company if each of its parts doesn’t view themselves as liable for results. Let your own personal accountability serve as a shining example for others to own theirs. You’ve got to own every part of it (but we’ll save Ownership for another post…).

A real-life example

Someone who epitomizes our Accountability principle is American businessman, successful investor and dedicated philanthropist, Warren Buffet. Since his childhood, Buffet has held himself accountable for not only his successes and failures, but for everything in between. Known as the "Wizard of Omaha" or "Oracle of Omaha", Buffet was born in Omaha, Nebraska, the second of three children. From a very young age, Buffet set his sights on his goals. Next to his yearbook picture, it reads “likes math; a future stockbroker.” He identified what he wanted, he held himself accountable for results and he made it happen.

As a youngster, Buffet sold gum, Coca-Cola or magazines door to door, all while also holding a job in his grandfather’s grocery store. To make extra money, he sold golf balls and stamps, and detailed cars. Buffet made everything count—in 1944, on his first income tax return, he took a $35 deduction for the use of his bicycle and watch on his paper route. Talk about accountability! In high school, he bought a farm (yes, you read that correctly) and invested in a business his father owned. After completing his BS in Business Administration, he was rejected by Harvard Business School. Again, though, his persistence won out, as he was eventually accepted to Columbia Business School, where he earned his MS in Economics in 1951.

In 1962, Buffet officially became a millionaire. He eventually took control of a textile manufacturing firm, Berkshire Hathaway, where he gained even more wealth through his savvy investments. In 2008, he was named the richest person in the world, with a net worth of $62 billion, surpassing Bill Gates on the Forbes list.

How this relates

The enormous success of Warren Buffet is a testament to his personal accountability—of relying on nobody but himself to see his goals through. But please be aware: success here does not equal money. Success is when you realize that your life is all about accountability, and that only you can make things happen for yourself. Whatever your goal is in life, and in business, do it and do it well. You can only rely on yourself to get these goals accomplished. Accountability leads to accomplishment.

Despite Buffet’s enormous wealth, as further evidence of his commitment to personal accountability, he doesn’t plan on leaving his money to his three children. Buffet wants them to be accountable and responsible for their own successes in this world, just as he was. He once said, “I want to give my kids just enough so that they would feel that they could do anything, but not so much that they would feel like doing nothing."

A caveat

Please be advised that beyond your efforts, each person in your organization needs to be held accountable for producing results. Just like in our example, every person, not just Jerry, was responsible for those graphics. You—and by extension your business—are measured by your products, what you are able to turn out and ultimately offer to the world. 

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