Keeping Others Accountable – The under-appreciated trait of leadership



I hope that this newsletter reaches you amid meaningful pursuits in your life and work.

I would appreciate if you could take a few minutes to breathe and reflect –  What is the one thing
that you are truly proud about, that you have achieved in the first half of this year?

Thanks for giving yourself the permission to acknowledge yourself…. doesn’t it feel good to

smell the roses? Increasingly as we coach leaders, a common thread that we are seeing is that everyone is amid some hurry, curry or worryJ Don’t you all feel the acid refluxes coming on too often these days? Well, save yourselves and the people you impact by having some clear pockets of reflective moments (as Venkat calls it STM time bands – “Stop The Madness” time bands) that help you to become more centered and alignedJ

I am happy to be also writing to you about something that can help you bridge the gap between your merit and success, which is…KEEPING OTHERS ACCOUNTABLE  –A very underappreciated trait in Leadership.


As Leaders, we come across multiple leadership and team frameworks and concepts. To remind you of one such pyramidframework we covered in our Global Leadership and Coaching Seminar, is Patrick Lencioni’s “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” – ABSENSE OF ACCOUNTABILITY is one such dysfunction that limits your ability to achieve the results that you and your teams align and commit to.

Often, while working with leaders who take the courage to keep people accountable, we often see their struggle and frustration – this has also been the focus of discussion in our multiple executive coaching conversations.

I want to take this opportunity to throw some light on this topic from our numerous coaching conversations with senior executives and to help you build some good “muscle fat” on this key leadership trait.

Keeping others accountable is a skill – however, like most skills, you need to clarify the beliefs and mindsets that underpin this skill. Keeping others accountable is also a choice – and that choice is often dictated by your Values – that urge you to bring the best out of people around you. An additional Value that drives you to keep people accountable is your own passion for excellence. We have also discovered that leaders who keep others accountable are also very proactive.

When values are clear, the mindset of the Leader becomes important: They need to 1) Possess a “Can Do” mentality 2) Possess a desire to expand the limits of performance 3) Have the courage to challenge status quo.

Once you have clarified your values, and built the right mindset, it is important to understand the sequence of communication that will maximize their ability to understand and appreciate you better. The sequence runs like this: WHY -> HOW -> WHAT. In several cases, we have observed leaders who keep others accountable by telling them what to do – however, without the Why and the How, their members are no wiser about what specifically their managers’ want them to do.

Let’s now switch to the other side to the person who is the recipient of your enhanced expectations of them. People react in one of four different ways: 1) Direct Challenge – a push back on whatever you have said or asked. 2) Passive Aggression – listen to you and continue to do it their way. 3) Displacement – take out their frustration with you on others. 4) Do Nothing

In such an environment, how can the leader balance between a pushback and taking the courage to hold people accountable at a higher level? During our coaching conversations, we encouraged our coachees’ through some powerful reframing techniques, to stretch their thinking on some ideal ways to keep others accountable. The list they came up is (which we are very happy to share):

  1. To reiterate, always start with the WHY – then move to the HOW and then to the WHAT
  2. Stay in the arena of the tangible and measurable – Aspire to WHAT by HOW by WHEN – clarifying the measures, KPIs and timelines multiply your ability to keep others accountable, while clarifying the How
  3. A good framework to have these discussion is : OK à Good à Great à World Class. Where would they place themselves? What should be different to get to the next stage?
  4. Stay in the arena of the tangible and measurable – Aspire to WHAT by HOW by WHEN – clarifying the measures, KPIs and timelines multiply your ability to keep others accountable, while clarifying the How
  5. Involve Social Pressure – create opportunities for team members to present and commit to a group
  6. Also leverage the Archetypes that you experientially learnt: WARRIOR, EXPLORER and the SAGE help in building your emotional strength to have the rational conversation.

Hope this list gives you a way forward to build your accountability muscle, which is a tough nut to crack, yet filled with the goodness of sweet victories and higher results.These are our thoughts and observations – as leaders, if you have observed other ways to keep people accountable, do contribute and enhance this discussion by emailing

Author: Sripriyaa - Director Innovation and Partnerships

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1 Comment

  1. Nice article and thanks for sharing the Why, How and What.

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