Effective Leadership: The Difference Between Responsibility and Accountability

The most effective leaders provide direction and inspiration in order to nurture and build stronger teams, but that’s not all required. Effective leadership requires accountability and responsibility. Although both terms have different meanings, they are often mistaken and considered interchangeable. What is the difference between responsibility and accountability?

Responsibility in the workplace

Responsibility is, by definition, “something that it is your job or duty to deal with”. Responsibility is, essentially, the duty to complete a task that someone is meant to complete.

Additionally, responsibility can be shared amongst teams: a group of people can have the same task to complete or objective to achieve, for instance.

Lastly, responsibility is task-oriented, focuses on defined roles and jobs, and cannot be assigned to someone; someone must choose to take responsibility for something themselves.

Accountability in the workplace

The definition of accountability in a business environment is “a situation in which someone is responsible for things that happen and can give a satisfactory reason for them”. It means taking ownership to ensure responsibilities are achieved, the duty to report on tasks and events.

Accountability for a specific task or process should be assigned to one leader only, as it can be confusing otherwise. For instance, if a group of people is accountable for a task, each person may think others are taking charge instead.

Opposite to responsibility, accountability focuses on the results of a task, instead of the task itself. Being accountable also means facing consequences if tasks are not completed as expected. The accountable person, who will be answerable for the results, should be chosen based on their skills, experience, and competencies. Lack of accountability can lead to negative reviews and relationships.

Responsibility vs Accountability

Now that we have explored both terms, what are the key differences between responsibility and accountability?

  • Responsibility
  • Completing tasks and being responsible for these
  • Ongoing
  • Can be shared amongst teams with goals and objectives
  • Task-oriented
  • Accountability
  • Giving an account of tasks after they end
  • After completion
  • Is assigned to one person only
  • Results-oriented

Effective teamwork with business simulations

Business simulations are effective tools to change and transform businesses, as their immersive nature allows learners to learn by interacting in realistic work environments. Instead of traditional training tools, serious games and experiential learning inspire self-direction and, more importantly, teach skills that stick.

Our business simulation tool ROCKET can help you improve how teams work within your business, tackle a lack of accountability, or become a better leader. The award-winning platform uses advanced game technology, experiential learning, and behavioral dynamics to build stronger teams and drive success.

To get more information on serious games or join us for a free game demonstration, please contact us online.

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