Do You Practice Artificial or Authentic Accountability?

Great leadership requires authentic accountability. However, toxic leaders practice artificial accountability while the servant leader is authentic in practice.

Accountability - Authentic or ArtificialGreat leadership requires authentic accountability. Most leaders understand the value of accountability and want to be perceived as one who accepts responsibility. However, toxic leaders will practice artificial accountability while the servant leader is authentic in this practice.

Artificial Accountability

Artificial accountability is practiced by individuals who desire to be great leaders but lack the character necessary to accept difficult challenges on the behalf of their team. Put another way, artificial accountability is often found where people want the fame and fortune without the self-sacrifice, effort and risk. Attributes of artificial accountability include:

1. Seeks Credit

One who practices artificial accountability often seeks out opportunities for recognition. In public, they want to be the one identified as the sort of person who accepts accountability. Yet, these individuals do not really want to risk themselves or their career on the behalf others.

2. Requires Self Promotion

The artificially accountable leader must call attention to their perceived self-sacrifice. At the same time, these individuals tend to deflect blame while promoting themselves. For example, “although it was John’s mistake, he reports to me, so I will take accountability for his actions.”

3. Appearance, Not Service

The artificially authentic leader is concerned more with how they appear to others than with how they actually act. These individuals may want to be perceived as taking accountability, but when the rubber meets the road, they’re not willing to change the tire.

Authentic Accountability

Authentic accountability is practiced by the servant leader. These leaders understand how to protect their teams, allow room to fail forward and protect them from toxic leaders. Authentically accountable leaders are willing to make the self-sacrifice necessary in the short term, to develop the sustainable success that follows.

1. Comprehensive

Authentic accountability ensures other names are not even mentioned. If discussion turns toward members of their team who may be deemed at fault, the leader stops the conversation and interjects, “it’s my area, I am to blame and will ensure it does not happen again”.

2. Quiet

Accountability that is authentic in nature is quiet. These leaders rarely, if ever, have to explain that they took responsibility for something on the behalf of others. These leaders let their actions speak for themselves.

3. Character, Not Appearance

Servant leaders have strong character and do not sacrifice principles for perception. As a result, authentic accountability is not a tool or tactic but stems from the persons character and values.

Servant leadership is not easy to practice. Serving your team means taking the blame while sharing the praise. As a result, if you want to achieve sustainable success, serve your team by practicing authentic accountability.

Question: How has authentic accountability helped you and your team?


Picture of Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

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