Leadership Competencies - Part 1 (Accountability)

The Relationship Model

No person makes a perfect leader. There are always ways to improve.

Although the responsibilities of those in leadership vary, there are a number of competencies that are common to all of them. In this first in a series of six articles, we shall look at the competencies that are needed in a Chief Executive Officer, Board Chair and Board Member, Senior Manager and Pastor.

Competencies are aspects of a person that make one successful at what one does. They are a complex combination of underlying characteristics, influenced by that person’s values and beliefs, motives, attitudes, personality traits, self-image and attitudes as well as skills and knowledge.

We can determine a person’s competencies by observing their behaviour. The more effectively and consistently they display the behaviours associated with the respective competencies, the better their leadership performance. A person’s competencies, therefore, are a window through which we can glimpse the person’s capability.

This week we shall look at accountability.

Accountability – acknowledges the need to evaluate work relationships and performance, willingly giving and receiving feedback.

All leaders receive their authority from someone and in turn are the source of authority for others. In the place where accountability should be most notable – amongst Christians – it is often most notably missing. Sometimes, pastors, having been “called by God” believe they are accountable directly to God, not to people. Like other leaders outside the church context, pastors do not receive their authority directly from God in order to fulfil their day-by-day responsibilities. Like all leaders, they receive their authority from those who employ them and pay their salary. This means that they are accountable to them for how well they fulfil those responsibilities.

Relationships may go wrong for many reasons. Some imagine that being in of a position of leadership naturally entitles one to impose a personal vision upon others. Some believe that leadership automatically means being in total control and having authority to act unilaterally. Those who give authority to leaders sometimes do not fulfil their responsibility to provide the necessary affirmation. Sometimes they neglect to provide sufficient resources, leaving the leader to produce results alone and unsupported. And sometimes they fail to give their leaders the gift of accountability.

All too often, the key elements of a relationship are never made clear. The extent of a person’s authority, specific responsibilities and expectations are never clarified.

If accountability is perceived as an opportunity to discipline or to punish, then the process is likely to be a negative one for everyone. For the Christian who has been taught consistently about forgiveness, accountability may seem hard and is sometimes perceived as unforgiving.

In reality, accountability is not a word to be feared. It is neither positive nor negative. It is simply a word meaning measurement. It is as much a measure of how the giver of authority is performing as the recipient.

The source of authority is accountable for providing adequate authorization and resources. The recipient of authority is accountable for fulfilling one’s responsibilities and producing results. Each person is in a relationship of mutual accountability with another and it is important that this relationship is reviewed formally and regularly.

When we take time to measure performance, commend good service, encourage and generally strengthen relationships, we give a gift. When we bring leaders back to a balanced centre point, address any concerns, misunderstandings, weaknesses or inappropriate behaviour, we give a gift.

We cheat people out of this gift when we fail to hold them accountable – when we simply forgive instead of holding them accountable in a context of support and affirmation. Such gifts are sorely needed and so often not given.

A person in leadership needs the competency of accountability in order to submit oneself to feedback from others and to sensitively give feedback to others. Only by giving and receiving feedback in a spirit of mutual accountability will leaders give and receive the affirmation and encouragement needed. Only then will they be alert to the potential to veer off course.

Because of the authority invested in them, leaders are particularly vulnerable to misusing and abusing power. Every leader needs the ability to give and receive the gift of accountability.

Les Stahlke, President/CEO
GovernanceMatters.com Inc.

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