Providing Accountability (Leadership Practice 9)

inspire, by Sarah Parrott, Flickr

inspire, by Sarah Parrott, Flickr

I’m in a series highlighting 9 Effective Servant Leadership Practices. Servant leadership is not just a good idea. It works! The 9 effective leadership practices highlighted in this series capture core leadership dimensions that are correlated with effectiveness in the team context.

This week we will take on the final of the 9 practices—Providing Accountability. Before I dive into the final one, here is a snapshot of the core practices associated with team effectiveness:

Cluster 1—Beginning with Authentic Leaders

  • Practice 1: Modeling what Matters
  • Practice 2: Engaging in Honest Self-Evaluation
  • Practice 3: Fostering Collaboration

Cluster 2—Understanding the Priority of People

  • Practice 4: Valuing and Appreciating
  • Practice 5: Creating a Place for Individuality
  • Practice 6: Understanding Relational Skills

Cluster 3—Helping Followers Navigate toward Effectiveness

  • Practice 7: Communicating with Clarity
  • Practice 8: Supporting and Resourcing
  • Practice 9: Providing Accountability

Practice 9: Providing Accountability

The final servant leadership practice included in this model is the leadership behavior of Providing Accountability. Rather than servant leadership being a weak form of leadership that is disinterested in results, this leadership behavior emphasizes the priority of holding people accountable for reaching their goals.

Misconceptions about Servant Leadership

When the topic of servant leadership comes up, this point is often a misconception I hear. People fear that if they are committed to serving others, they will lose authority in the eyes of followers or their acts of kindness will become opportunities for others to take advantage of what others view as a “weak” form of leadership.

These are misconceptions of servant leadership, though. Servant leaders do make hard decisions. Servant leaders at times do need to terminate employees. Leaders who are committed to serving their followers don’t simply do the job for those followers, they support and resource their followers toward success, and they then hold followers accountable toward agreed upon outcomes. Although servant leadership begins with a focus on followers, servant leadership also “has teeth” and includes a commitment to providing accountability and is consistent with a commitment to valuing and developing followers.

Clear Communication

As with the leadership practice of communicating with clarity, several research participants reaffirmed the priority of clear communication in the providing of accountability for followers. In contrast to some of the negative examples provided by participants—examples where leaders failed to clearly communicate and then terminated or disciplined employees based on poor performance—there was a unified called to proactive and honest communication around expectations and follower performance.

Open and Honest Evaluation

One participant noted “I prefer honest performance evaluations—those which acknowledge both strengths and growth fronts and clearly set goals that can be reached quarterly and annually.” Another participant similarly noted that, “honest and open communication that is regular and consistent at setting and reaching goals is very effective in developing accountability and building trust.”

Inspect What You Expect

Another participant notes that “leaders inspect what they expect,” and this is arguably consistent with the leader-love that characterizes a servant leaders commitment to serving the needs of the follower over the needs of the leader. Engaging in direct and honest conversation with followers around outcomes that are important to followers and the organization provides an opportunity for follower development, a tangible factor associated with valuing and developing people. Servant leadership is not about caring for followers or providing accountability. Servant leadership includes both. Are you inspecting what you expect when it comes to follower goal accomplishment?

Some Final Thoughts

The model covered these past weeks is about (1) beginning with authentic leaders, (2) understanding the priority of people, and (3) helping followers navigate toward effectiveness. We’ve covered the 9 core leadership practices associated with team effectiveness that are both presented in this model and supported by related research.

As you seek to grow as a leader, these 9 effective leadership practices will serve both you and your followers well. Take time in the coming week to think through one or two action steps based on these practices. Enjoy the journey of growing as a servant leader.

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Related Posts for the 9 Effective Leadership Practices:

Cluster One — Beginning with Authentic Leaders

Practice 1: Modeling what Matters

Practice 2: Engaging in Honest Self-Evaluation

Practice 3: Fostering Collaboration

Cluster Two — Understanding the Priority of People

Practice 4: Valuing and Appreciating

Practice 5: Creating a Place for Individuality

Practice 6: Understanding Relational Skills

Cluster Three — Helping Followers Navigate toward Effectiveness

Practice 7: Communicating with Clarity

Practice 8: Supporting and Resourcing

Practice 9: Providing Accountability

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Note: For those wanting to dig a bit deeper, please check out my article entitled “A Model for Effective Servant Leadership Practice.”

9 Effective Leadership Practices

Number Nine, by Mario Klingemann, Flickr

Number Nine, by Mario Klingemann, Flickr

Servant leadership is a good idea. The core of servant leadership is about leaders placing follower needs at the highest priority level. Most would agree this is a good idea. The question many do raise, however, is whether or not this good idea is also effective?

Thankfully social science research methods can help us. One of the benefits of social science research is its capacity to confirm the utility or effectiveness of practices that are inherently valid philosophically or biblically.

Good Ideas that Work

For instance we do not need research to inform us that humility is important for individuals and leaders; this is an argument that may be made practically, philosophically and biblically. The validity and importance of humility may be argued apart from research. However, research can come alongside logic and experience to confirm the utility or effectiveness of an idea like humility. This is what was found by Jim Collins in his research on Level Five Leaders. Not only is leader humility ethically-good and biblically-consistent as an idea—an argument that may be made biblically, philosophically, and practically—Jim Collins found through research that leader humility is also effective.

Servant Leadership: An Good Idea Whose Time Has Come

A similar argument may be made for understanding servant leadership. The importance and validity of servant-oriented leadership practices can be argued ethically, morally, philosophically, practically, and biblically apart from questions of its utility and effectiveness. However, it is powerful when leadership practices that are ethically-good and biblically-consistent are also found to be effective.

While servant leadership is a good and values-based model of leadership practice—and this alone is enough for leaders to utilize servant leadership practices—it is also helpful to know that servant leadership is effective. And indeed it is. Servant leadership is not only a good idea. It works.

9 Effective Leadership Practices

So what characterizes servant leadership? What leader behaviors are consistent with servant leadership practice?

Here are 9 core leadership practices that I’ve identified as not only good ideas, but also as effective.

Cluster One — Beginning with Authentic Leaders

Practice 1: Modeling what Matters

Practice 2: Engaging in Honest Self-Evaluation

Practice 3: Fostering Collaboration

Cluster Two — Understanding the Priority of People

Practice 4: Valuing and Appreciating

Practice 5: Creating a Place for Individuality

Practice 6: Understanding Relational Skills

Cluster Three — Helping Followers Navigate toward Effectiveness

Practice 7: Communicating with Clarity

Practice 8: Supporting and Resourcing

Practice 9: Providing Accountability

In the coming weeks, I’ll unpack each of these practices and provide reflections both on why they are important and how leaders may use them to effectively guide their followers.

For those wanting to dig a bit deeper, please check out my article entitled “A Model for Effective Servant Leadership Practice.”