Posts Tagged ‘accountability’

Daddy as a little boyMy dad was the first quintessential leader I encountered in life. He wasn’t perfect – none of us are – but who he was and how he lived his life was anchored to the principles of quintessential leadership.

In the years since Daddy’s death in 1998, I’ve met and or reconnected with many people who knew my dad well and one of the things I’ve consistently heard about him was that he was a good man, a kind man, and a gentle man with an open heart ready to serve and open ears and time ready to listen. (more…)

forgiveness quintessential leader

Of all the things that we humans are called upon to do, it is my opinion that real, genuine, authentic forgiveness is one of the most difficult. Humans, by nature, get a certain perverse enjoyment out of nursing grudges against others, holding on to wrongs done to them, and feeding what they believe is eternal and justifiable anger toward other people.

It doesn’t make any sense logically, objectively, or rationally because, in the end, unforgiveness causes a lot of self-inflicted pain that can sometimes last for the rest of a person’s life.

Because here’s the irony of being unforgiving.

No one suffers but the person who can’t or won’t forgive. The people who wronged the unforgiving go on with their lives, unaware of, perhaps, or, more likely, uncaring about the effect their behaviors. (more…)

the quintessential leader building trust and being trust worthy book

In the first post of this series, the excerpt from chapter 1 included a list of all the components we must develop and have to build trust and be trustworthy.

In the subsequent chapter excerpts detailing the components we need to have and develop to build trust and be trustworthy, chapter 2 discusses honesty, chapter 3 discusses integrity, and chapter 4 discusses fairness, and chapter 5 discusses righting wrongs.

This post, which includes an excerpt from chapter 6, discusses the component of accountability that builds trust and makes us trustworthy.

Accountability is a two-pronged component that includes both a sense of duty and a willingness to take responsibility for our conduct, whether that is our words or our actions, or both.

Accountability also entails taking responsibility for the things and the people entrusted to us. Literally, when we are accountable we stand as a shield between everything and everyone we are responsible for.

If attacks come from from outside, we take the hit. We provide a safe and protected environment where growth, learning, and progress can thrive because we encourage it and the environment is threat-free.

Accountability, therefore, encompasses a large amount of territory. It also requires that we put our egos permanently on the shelf and conduct ourselves selflessly in all areas of our lives.

But, like all the other components of building trust and being trustworthy, accountability is rarely seen among people who are leadership positions today.

Building trust and being trustworthy is an integrated trait of quintessential leaders.

It is also an integrated trait that all of us – because each and every one of us leads at least one team, small or large, of people in our lives – need to develop and have as part of the core of who we are and what we are. In essence, this trait is at the center of exemplary character and conduct, and none of us should settle for anything less than this in ourselves and others.

Unfortunately, most of us settle for less. A lot less. In ourselves. In others. 

The majority of people in leadership positions today are not trust builders and they are not trustworthy. Many of us, frankly, are also not trust builders and trustworthy.

We live in a world that with no moral code as its foundation that expects trust to be non-existent or broken. Look around. It’s everywhere, including, in many cases, very close to you.

And society has become so accustomed to this that it glorifies it instead of condemning it.

Politicians who lie routinely, who line their pockets with money and perks while making decisions that hurt and destroy the people they are supposed to represent, who cheat on their wives because they can.

Arts and sports celebrities who have no regard for faithfulness to their spouses, who live hedonistic lifestyles that destroy their families, the people around them, and, eventually their lives.

Religious leaders who cheat on their wives, who cheat on their taxes, and who scam their congregations both in how they deceitfully handle the word of God and in coercive and corrupt financial matters, acquiring wealth and power in the process.

Business leaders who destroy millions of lives by deceit, fraud, and illegal actions that result in their employees and customers losing everything while they escape any kind of punitive action and instead reap obscene profits and end their tenures – only to go to another financially lucrative position – with golden parachutes that are equally obscene.

And we, as individual leaders for our teams, who cheat on our taxes, who are routinely dishonest with the children (our own and others) and other people entrusted to us, who routinely steal things from our workplaces (you most likely didn’t pay for that pen you’re using at work, so it doesn’t belong to you), who routinely break traffic laws, who will walk out of stores with something we were not charged for and never think twice about it, who will take extra money that we’re not owed in financial transactions without blinking an eye, who cheat on our spouses, who marry until “divorce do us part,” and who, as a course of habit, break confidences of family and friends, gossip about family and friends behind their backs, and destroy reputations in the process.

Maybe we haven’t thought about building trust and being trustworthy at this kind of nitty gritty level.

But until we do – and we develop and have this trait as the core of who and what we are – we will not build trust and we will not be trustworthy. And we will not be quintessential leaders.

Trust and trustworthiness is probably the single most important trait we can possess. And it is also the most fragile.

It can take a long time to build and be, but it can be broken irreparably in a single second.

Therefore, this is a lifetime work on and in ourselves that we must commit to making an integral part of our character by continually developing it, maintaining it, and growing it. 

This goal should be our goal.

But it requires courage. It requires diligence. It requires vigilance. It requires continual self-examination. It requires continual change. It requires the ability to, much of the time, stand alone to maintain.

It is not for the faint-hearted. It is not for the vacillators. It is not for the crowd-pleasers. It is not for the pretenders. It is not for the wannabes. It is not for the weak.

But if you’re reading this, I know that you’re not any of those kinds of people. Those kinds of people won’t even read this because it requires time, effort, change, and commitment, and too many of us are, sadly, either just too lazy or we just don’t care. 

Building Trust and Being Trustworthy takes an in-depth look at the “this is what it looks like in practice” aspect of each of the components we need to develop and have to build trust and be trustworthy. The second chapter discusses the component of honesty in building trust and being trustworthy.

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Excerpt from”Chapter 6: The Accountability Component of Trust and Trustworthiness”

In this chapter we’ll show the aspects that encompass accountability and I believe it will become apparent when we review those that there is a serious lack of quintessential leadership in all walks of life today. But as we strive to be quintessential leaders, we will see that the component of accountability is one that must be part of who and what we are in order to build trust and be trustworthy.

What does accountability entail and how does accountability get measured in terms of quintessential leadership? Merriam-Webster defines accountability as “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility” or “to account for one’s actions.” Being obligated and being willing are both attributes of character and mindset, which are crucial areas of distinction that make quintessential leaders stand out from everyone else. 

Obligation is rarely found in organizational thinking today and in many ways it reflects the larger lack of a sense of obligation reflected in society.

Instead of recognition and actions that reflect that recognition of what we owe others, society, in general, has adopted an entitlement mindset that says “I owe nothing, but everyone else owes me.”

This is reflected in the “I deserve” and “my rights” attitudes that are prevalent in every part of life – home, family, school, extracurricular activities, religion, and work – today. 

Obligation, by definition, is not negotiable. It is an integral and driving force in who we are, what we do, what we say, and how we think. Quintessential leaders know and understand their obligations and strive to fulfill them in every part of their lives and that includes the area of accountability.

Willingness is another character and mindset attribute of a quintessential leader.

Even if people know they should (obligation) do something, but they don’t do it, then they lack the quality of willingness. There is a proverb that says the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This speaks directly to knowing we should do something, but being unwilling, whether by procrastination, slothfulness, or lack of desire, to do what we know we should do. 

So, as quintessential leaders, we know we should and are willing to be accountable for everything within our control. What does that exactly mean? What does it look like in practice?

Mike Myatt, in his article, “Leadership is Not Dodgeball,” gives a big-picture summary in his title.

We all remember playing dodge ball in elementary school. The object of the game was to avoid being hit by the ball if you were in the middle of the circle and it required running, jumping out of the way, ducking, and occasionally pushing other people in the path of the ball.

And for the most part, we see people in leadership positions doing these same maneuvers in terms of accountability in negative situations (these are also the first people to take full credit and accountability in positive situations).

One of the most common responses of most people in leadership positions today, across the human spectrum of organizational units and constructs when problems, issues, and mistakes happen is to simply run away – to distance themselves personally as far from the negative events as possible. This is out and out cowardice and not a quintessential leader trait.”

key component of quintessential leadershipI recently heard a discussion that contrasted the way God and Jesus Christ interact with humanity now (the terms “hands off” and “choice” – or free will – were used interchangeably) and the way the Bible says they will interact with humanity in the future (the term “hands on” was used).

Words are important. The way we construct and present words to present ideas are important. And the way we define relationships (such as similarity and contrasts) with words is important.

Equally important is whether we listen, how we listen, and whether we are critically thinking about what we hear or we just accept it at face value as being accurate.

Quintessential leaders pay very close attention to both sides of this equation at all times.

Therefore, for example, if someone sets up a contrast, then they present two opposite things. If  interchangeable words are used on one side of the contrast, then there are, either expressly stated or implied, interchangeable words on the other side of the contrast. Since it’s a contrast, the words (stated or implied) on each side are opposites of each other.

So, in the discussion I talked about above, if “hand’s off” equals “choice” (which was expressly stated) then, in contrast, “hand’s on” implicitly equals “no choice.” And the lack of choice equals force.

But is that true?

Is it accurate?

And is it consistent with the written record we have that shows how God and Jesus Christ (whom we are repeatedly assured are consistent, don’t lie, and have the same character and characteristics forever) have interacted with humanity, who they created, from the beginning?

The answer is “no.” While I could go to many places in the Bible to prove this, I will use the first example I immediately thought about to refute this, which is in Genesis 4:3-7.

The conversation (and I have no doubt it was a lengthy one but we just see the summary here) between the Lord and Cain shows explicitly how God and Jesus Christ lead humans and what that relationship has looked like, looks like, and will always look like.

The Lord (I AM in the Old Testament and Jesus Christ in the New Testament) had the ability to force Cain to do the right thing. But He didn’t do that.

Instead, He laid out the big picture of the framework within which Cain had to operate. He educated Cain on the options he had and what the consequences of executing those options were. Then He coached Cain on which option would lead to a successful outcome.

But Cain had to choose which option he wanted to pursue. Why?

force unquintessential leadershipForce can get the results a leader wants, but while force may win the battle, it loses the war.

A person who is forced to do something, whether by fear, intimidation, coercion, or bullying, is passively participating, but they have no investment, no commitment, no heart, soul, and mind conviction behind their actions. 

Using force puts all the accountability and responsibility on the shoulders of the person exerting the force.

Finally, force requires a total shutdown of logic, reasoning, and critical thinking (all attributes that humans were created with and are expected to use). Essentially, force creates rote action accompanied by suspension of all the unique elements of our brains and our consciences that make us human. 

In other words, force creates the same superficial and unknowing conditioned responses in humans that Pavlov’s famous experiments created in dogs.

choice quintessential leadershipWhen choices are presented, on the other hand, they require active participation on the part of the people they are presented to. Choices carry responsibility and accountability, and they require logic, reasoning, critical thinking, and action.

Not all choices carry the same weight and, therefore, may not require a total heart, soul, and mind investment and commitment (for example, choosing between eggs and toast or cereal for breakfast), but all choices, when they are executed, have some level of investment and commitment.

Choices also create a partnership between leaders and their teams. There are obligations on both sides and there are rewards on both sides. One of the greatest rewards can be growth as good choices are made that lead to greater progress and productivity, resulting in successful outcomes for everyone.

Even bad choices serve a vital purpose. They help us to learn what not to do the next time. As we deal with the accountability and responsibility of the consequences of bad choices, it spurs us to critically think about what we did that led to those consequences and to think about what we will change in the future to produce different – and, hopefully, better – results.

God and Jesus Christ are the epitomes of quintessential leadership and the models we as human quintessential leaders strive to perfectly and totally emulate in who we are, what we are, how we are, and how we lead.

So, choice or force: which is quintessential leadership?

Recent scientific research has revealed that the brain has a special cell – called a “grid cell” – that functions as a global positioning system (GPS), enabling us to continually know where we are in relationship to all the routes we take while physically moving about and storing those as memories that we retrieve when we traverse a route we have already traveled before.

I am not sure I have this neurological GPS grid cell. From my earliest memories, I have been prone to getting lost, not just my first time going some place, but often every time, especially if it’s a place I travel to infrequently. My lack in this area is so pronounced that – and this is rare, but it’s happened enough to give me pause – in the dark, especially, I get turned around in my own house and walk into the wrong room. 

In addition, I’m directionally-challenged. North, south, east, and west are beyond my scope of understanding in real life (I can tell you where they are on a map). If I have to point in a direction, I usually point in the wrong direction. I have to remind myself of my elementary school science that the sun rises in the east and it sets in the west so that twice a day I know where east and west are.

This directional challenge is even worse when I get directions from someone who uses north, south, east, and west as descriptors to explain how to get from point A to point B.

You know just how directionally-challenged you are when you actually prefer a perplexing propensity (probably not unique to northeast Tennessee, but I haven’t run into as much anywhere else in the country as I have here) to use non-existent landmarks and vague measurements with no road names as driving directions that might be less likely to get you lost.

Even when the directions sound like this: “you go down there (pointing in the direction you need to go), and you go past where that big ol’ tobaccer barn useta be, and then you kinda curve around a little, and then you go to the red light, and then you go right, and it’s just a little ways after that.”

So when I bought my first GPS for the car, I was elated.

It was actually very comforting and soothing for me because I tend to panic when I get lost and the fear of the uncertainty of knowing what to do next – if I stay where I am, I’m still lost, but if I move from where I am, then I may get even more lost – has been a permanent fixture of my life since the day I got my driver’s license.

Never again would I have to worry about getting lost again while driving. Because even if I had no clue where I was and where I needed to go, it did and would get me there reliably. I could trust it to navigate me correctly, no matter what.

Quintessential leaders have a similar GPS that doesn’t come pre-programmed, doesn’t depend on satellites hovering above earth’s atmosphere, and doesn’t have to worry about outages because of sunspots or solar flares.

This GPS is developed over time, the product of having an absolute moral foundation of right and wrong, adhering consistently to that absolute moral foundation of right and wrong, and having that adherence become an integral part of who we are and what we do, no matter what.

character gps system quintessential leaderThe quintessential leader’s GPS is character.

Character tells us what our position is no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, no matter who we’re with, no matter what other factors, familiar or unfamiliar, are involved. It ensures that we accurately and consistently navigate life, no matter where life takes us or what life throws at us.

But there’s always a caveat with global positioning systems that we as quintessential leaders need to be aware of, recognize, and resist.

The first time I turned my GPS on in my car, I was driving from my house to an interstate on a route that I could drive with my eyes closed. Almost as soon as I’d pulled out of my driveway, the GPS started telling me to go to a different road and take a different route to the interstate. I vividly remember arguing out loud – and with vigor – with the GPS.

“I’m not going that way. I always go this way. I know you think I ought to do something different, but I’m not going to. Enough already!”

The more I resisted going the way the GPS was telling me to go, the more it talked to me telling me I was not going the way it wanted me to go. And the more loudly I responded to it, trying to drown out the voice, trying to get it to be quiet, trying to convince it that I was right and it was wrong, it seemed the louder and more insistent it got.

Similarly, we have to be aware that we can do the same thing with our character GPS. It will always lead us and guide us the right way, but we have to be aware that we can chose to ignore it or override it or even turn it off. It won’t force us to do the right thing. That’s a choice we have to make. Every time.

Going or doing something the way we always have gone or done it may not be wrong. However, it may also not be the best way. What our character GPS does is make us actively stop and be consciously aware and thinking about that more carefully as that internal voice guides our attitudes, our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our actions.

How often do we argue with our character GPS? How often do we rationalize doing something different than what it is telling us to do? How often do we make excuses for not following the directions it’s giving us? How often do we completely ignore it? How often do we just turn it off?

I know we all do at times. I know because I am guilty of having done this and doing this at times. Unfortunately, it seems that is part of being human and the struggle that humans encounter continually. Sometimes we struggle well and succeed. Other times we struggle poorly and we fail.

However, as quintessential leaders, our character global positioning systems should be already very well-developed, with updates being applied as they become available, so that, even though the struggles never go away entirely, we experience them less often and when we do experience them, we succeed much more than we fail.

In conjunction with this on-going development of our character global positioning systems, we will find that we are less apt to argue with, to rationalize around, to make excuses about, to ignore, or to completely turn them off.

Instead, we listen, we pay attention and we follow the route without deviation, without detours, and without exceptions. Every time. All the time.

Developing a character GPS takes commitment. It takes time. It takes a lot of effort. It also, often, means going completely counter to prevailing systems, ideas, methods, social norms, business norms, and life norms.

It’s important to remember that just because everybody else is doing something doesn’t mean everybody else is right.

For quintessential leaders, one of the first things we discover is that, in many cases, everybody else has settled for low standards or no standards. That’s hardly something we’d consider a worthy gauge against which to measure ourselves.

Quintessential leaders must dare to be and to do not only differently than the status quo, but also to replace it with the traits that make up our character global positioning systems: honesty, integrity, consistency, fairness, setting a higher standard, righting wrongs, accountability, sincerity, and setting boundaries.

How are we doing?

I’ve often said that quintessential leadership is an art. It can be learned by anyone, but some of us are more naturally inclined by personality, temperament, perspective, and experience to being quintessential leaders. For us, it’s an extension of who and what we are.

For those to whom this doesn’t come naturally, it’s hard work a lot of the time. But, no matter how we’re naturally constructed, this is not impossible work for anyone.

Whether we become quintessential leaders depends on whether we want to be and whether we’re committed to it no matter what and we diligently apply and grow in that commitment, with the evidence of that clearly visible in who and what we’re becoming.

So let’s talk about a few tangible ways that quintessential leaders think and do differently from others. I will be identifying and discussing these from time to time and today’s post is the first discussion.

All of these should be things that each of us looks at in our own leadership mirrors to see how much we’re reflecting them. If the reflection is clear, then we need to continue to keep that clear. If it’s dim or absent, then we’ve still got a lot of work to do.

Spoiler alert: we all still have a lot of work to do. None of us are perfect at any of these all the time.

However, these are a few of the baseline benchmarks against which we should routinely measure, in-depth, how our journey to quintessential leadership is going: where we’ve been, where we are, and where we need to go. (more…)