Leadership Lessons from Penn State: The Necessity of Accountability

July 25, 2012
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The unspeakable crimes at Penn State are a source of local and national outrage and sadness. Our continued thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families as they attempt to heal and recover.

But there are lessons to be learned here for all of us, not just the decision makers at Penn State. When an elite institution with a legendary history and seemingly bulletproof reputation suddenly goes down in flames, it should be a wakeup call to everyone in a position of authority and responsibility.

Leadership Equals Accountability!

The number one lesson I want to share is that leadership requires accountability. In this era of anonymous digital communication, sprawling corporate structures, and blurred job descriptions it is easy to pass the buck. You hear it done all the time. Here are some prime examples:

“Since it is a team effort no one person is responsible.”

“Maybe it was wrong but I was just doing my job.”

“You have to understand, it was just business. Anyway, if we didn’t do it our competitors would have.”

“That’s someone else’s department.”

“You can’t change history. Can’t we just move on and forget it?”

People constantly shirk responsibility and accountability by camouflaging their Teflon “not me” behavior as a legitimate excuse. But that’s just a phony leadership cop-out!

Hold Yourself Accountable!

Learn to spot these tactics in yourself first and then in others. Then root them out by demanding true and authentic accountability. Real leaders hold themselves accountable, even when the stakes are high and nobody else is looking!

Is that easy? Of course not! But it is the quality that distinguishes iconic leaders who will walk through fire to uphold their principles. Be that kind of leader and you’ll also sleep better at night knowing that you are the kind of person your children expect you to be.

Leadership is Earned, Not Awarded!

Maybe you have a corner office and oversee multi-national operations. But unless the buck stops with you then you have not yet earned the right to call yourself a leader. Eventually that shortcoming will catch up with you and stall or halt your career advancement.

I hope you never face a serious ethical dilemma. But being accountable under all circumstances will nevertheless temper your leadership for all kinds of challenges. Personal accountability conditions you to succeed and keep your bearings during every uphill battle that comes your way.

Holding yourself to that standard makes you feel stronger, more confident, and more satisfied. Plus it will contribute to a rare and powerful executive presence that radiates from an inner source of conviction, credibility, and courage.

Adopt an Attitude of Accountability!

Remember this lesson the next time you hear someone complain, “What happened to ethics in business and people doing the right thing even when it isn’t profitable, popular, or convenient? Isn’t anybody accountable anymore?”

Put yourself into the rare and valuable status of an exceptional leader. During a time when leadership failures are too often the norm, stand up and proclaim your integrity. Live your leadership in such a way that you can boldly answer “Yes, I am responsible and accountable!”

Tell me what you think! Please post your valued and valuable comments below.



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Sarah Hathorn is a leadership development mentor, executive presence coach, image and branding consultant, public speaker & author. She is the founding CEO of her own successful company, Illustra Consulting, and the creator of the proprietary Predictable Promotion System™.

Blog, Ezine & Website: www.illustraconsulting.com
Copyright © 2012, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS

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