Accountability in the workplace

Accountability in the workplace

Holding your leader accountable

I need tips on how to hold the "BOSS" accountable. Not morally, but just making sure that he is taking care of his part of the day to day business. Many times, I feel like I am dragging him along and am having to backtrack and check up on him.


When you google accountability in the workplace, most of the search results pull up tips and suggestions for leaders on how to keep those they lead accountable.

There is actually very little available for employees on how to help keep leaders accountable and on track. And right off the bat let me say it’s not an easy task, and unless you work for a humble leader who is willing to set aside pride and ego, accountability may not go over very well. But does that mean we should not try?

Accountability is not easy. We don't like to be told we’ve made a mistake. We don't like to be corrected. We don't like to have our weaknesses exposed. Yet, we cannot lead like Jesus unless we are willing to be held accountable and to hold others accountable. We cannot build a strong, devoted and trustworthy community without accountability. If we are followers of Jesus, we should value and embrace accountability and not shy away from it.

God reminds us that influence over others is a great responsibility, and leaders should not take it lightly.

In James 3:1 we are told that “not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

In Luke 12:48 the Scripture says: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

In Jeremiah 17:10 the Lord tells us: “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

The Scripture is clear that accountability is good, that’s it’s a part of every thriving community, and it’s God’s way of developing us and growing us into leaders who lead like Jesus. So how can a follower keep his or her leader accountable?

Here are 5 accountability rules to keep in mind, and illustrations from the Scripture of moments when those in leadership were held accountable by those they led.

Understand their personality

Different personalities respond to conflict differently, and accountability can often feel like conflict. Understanding how your leader is naturally wired will help you approach accountability in a way that is least threatening to them. Here are a few clues:

  • High D (Dominant): Direct. Decisive. Problem Solver. Risk Taker. Self-Starter

When challenging a high D leader, be direct, brief and to the point. Expect a good back and forth debate. Focus on specific actions and bottom line impact. Your tone can be firm and direct.

  • High I (Influencing): Enthusiastic. Trusting, Optimistic, Persuasive, Talkative, Impulsive, Emotional

When challenging a high I leader, focus on the relationship first. Be friendly, informal and positive. Use humor or illustration to state your case. Allow your leader to verbalize his/her feelings and help them come up with a tactical action plan.

  • High S (Steady): Team player, Possessive, Predictable, Friendly, Reliable, Compliant, Patient

When challenging a high S leader, use friendly tones, give assurance and focus on helping them see how your solution will bring more harmony and stability. Help them feel comfortable with whatever change you are proposing. Be nonthreatening and patient.

  • High C (Conscientious): Accurate, Careful, Fact-finder, Critical, Systematic, High standards

When challenging a high C leader, use friendly non-threatening voice.  Be prepared to answer detailed questions. Be patient and persistent. Expect cautious and/or negative response at first. Give them time to process the information. Make them feel valued.

Keep them informed

Educate your leader and find creative ways to open his/her eyes to the realities of your current situation. Help them build a broader circular vision. Use metrics, illustration and other supporting evidence.

Elevate their effectiveness

Help your leader understand how the accountability and processes you want to put in place will help elevate them to a different level of leadership.

Your tone matters

Kindness goes a long way, and the tone of your voice can be critical. Proverbs 15:1 says: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Create a follow up plan

Always have a solution or a plan in mind as you approach your leader about an issue that needs to be resolved. Once you and your leader come to an agreement, ask for a follow-up conversation and put it on a calendar. Follow-up will hopefully prevent the “out of sight out of mind” approach.  

Uriah, David and Nathan

Nathan was God’s prophet who confronted and held David, the King of Israel, accountable after the death of Uriah.

The Scripture is full of moments when God’s prophets delivered a message of accountability to the leaders of Israel. Unfortunately, in most instances, the accountability was met with wrath, ridicule and even the death of God’s messengers.

In Nathan’s case, his message to David was met with sorrow and repentance. Here is what we can glean from Nathan’s approach as he confronted his King:

  • “Then the Lord sent Nathan to David.” 2 Samuel 12:4: Nathan did not confront David on his own, he was God’s messenger. Before we keep our leaders accountable we should spend time in prayer and seek God’s favor and wisdom. Approaching your leader in the right spirit is very important.
  • Nathan tells a story: Instead of accusing David of murder, Nathan, through God’s wisdom, uses an illustration to get his point across. Using stories and illustrations is a great way to break the ice and to gain access to your leader’s heart.
  • Nathan doesn’t beat around the bush: Once Nathan is done telling the story and David is done reacting to the story, Nathan simply tells David: You are that man! Nathan does not try to smooth talk his way through this. He does not offer complements to David before he confronts him with the sad reality of David’s sin. Nathan is simply honest.
  • Nathan’s ultimate goal was redemption: Once David accepts the tough message, confesses his sin to the Lord, Nathan delivers a beautiful message of redemption and consequences: “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However…” (2 Samuel 12:13). Nathan’s aim was not to judge and destroy his King, but to lead him to repentance. Nathan delivers good news of God’s forgiveness, but he also does not sugar coat the consequences that would follow.

Community was always God’s design, and as a community of imperfect human beings there will always be conflict. Accountability is simply part of life, and if we learn to do it well, we will grow as individuals, as leaders and influencers and as teams. Ecclesiastes 3:7 tells us that there is “time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak.” Depending on God’s wisdom and the guidance of His Holy Spirit is the key in holding our leaders accountable.

We cannot lead like Jesus unless we are willing to be held accountable.

Kindness goes a long way. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1



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