In businesses today accountability is a crucial concept, but it’s often misunderstood.  Many people can point to accountability when they see it in action, but have a hard time nailing it down.

According to Webster’s dictionary, accountability is “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions”.   This is a great definition, but if we take this one step further, consider the following  definition of accountability: “A personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results.”

Based on the New York Times bestseller The Oz Principle, accountability is the “personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results.”  Furthermore, according to The Oz Principle, “only when you assume full accountability for your thoughts, feelings, actions, and results can you direct your own destiny; otherwise someone or something else will.”

This newer definition includes a mindset or attitude that requires a level of ownership that includes making, keeping and answering for personal commitments. Such a perspective embraces both current and future efforts.  As a result…

  • accountability separates the wishers from the action takers.
  • accountability means taking ownership of the results (or the outcome).
  • being accountable means that you are “answerable” for your actions.
  • accountability cannot be delegated


So why should you care about accountability?  Accountability is crucial to achieve results and staying competitive in today’s business environment.  Accountability can help:

  • Strengthen the Culture –  “Without accountability execution suffers… accountability becomes embedded into corporate culture by making it everyone’s responsibility… empowering everyone on the team and celebrating successes together.”
  • Build Trust – “Accountability breeds trust. Managers need to have open communication and stand by their decisions and actions, so that all members of the team know the rules, know they will be applied equally to all, and have transparency.”
  • Breed Excellence  – “The best way to encourage positive business outcomes and discourage unfavorable ones is to reward excellence, while correcting performance that doesn’t live up to your expectations.  I’ve found that in operating in this manner decision makers are able to achieve the greatest results.”
  • Set Expectations – “In order for a team, particularly a team of highly competent professionals, to work at maximum capacity, each person must be held fully accountable for their assigned tasks.”
  • Ensure Ownership – “Accountability is important since it results in a highly efficient and productive team. The key point is having each member take full responsibility on a given task or goal from A to Z, which eliminates confusion and saves a lot of time and resources,”

Accountability vs Responsibility
Once we know what it means to be accountable and why it is important, we want to make sure you do not confuse being accountable versus being responsible.

Accountable: “subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something; responsible; answerable.”

Responsible: “answerable or accountable, as for something within one’s power, control, or management.”

Responsibility is an action or activity you can delegate while accountability is your role and it’s something you can’t give away.

While responsibility is associated with clearly defined duties and roles, accountability is the proactive, dynamic, and forward-facing process of exercising one’s agency in order to achieve a goal.

In addition, we believe there is an important and fundamental difference between accountability and responsibility—a night and day difference. We appreciate and respect the notion of responsibility and the need for it, but we know from decades of experience that accountability is something truly empowering, not something consequential.  When people use these two words synonymously, this misapplication can unintentionally create tendencies to blame, add unnecessary confusion, cause disengagement, and lead to poor performance.

Remember that you delegate responsibility and hold accountability.

In summary, responsibility can be given or received, even assumed, but that doesn’t automatically guarantee that personal accountability will be taken. Accountability is a choice. If that choice isn’t made, it’s possible to have responsibility for something or someone bu still lack accountability.

New Paradigm Advisors believes you deserve to enjoy the benefits of a profitable, growing and well-run business. We help you create your accountability and break out of the old way of doing things and press forward with a renewed passion and focus. For more information about a new paradigm for your business, please reach out to us.  We’d love to hear from you.