#095: Does leadership involve both accountability and responsibility?

Does leadership involve both accountability and responsibility?  This can be a confusing question simply because a lot of people use the terms accountability and responsibility interchangeably.

David, Uriah, Accountability

If I am accountable for something, I am the one who is ultimately answerable for the activity or decision.

If I am responsible for something, I am the one who actually completed the task.

Generally speaking, the leader is accountable, the one who is ultimately answerable for the activities and decisions they make. The leader may also be responsible if they are the ones carrying out the decision or task.

The result of a leader not being accountable or being held accountable can spell disaster for an organization. Over the span of my career, I worked with only two managers who tried to avoid being held accountable for their actions.

While the Bible provides several examples of leaders who were not held accountable for their actions today I want to look at what happened to King David.

God himself described David as “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). Yet, 1 Kings 15:5 described David as doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord, “except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.” The matter of Uriah the Hittite is the result of David being held accountable by God.

We know the story recounted in 2 Samuel 11. David sends his army, including his servants out to war, but decides to stay home. One evening he sees Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, bathing on her rooftop. He sends for her, has intercourse with her, and she becomes pregnant. David sends for Uriah in the hopes that Uriah will sleep with his wife, but he refuses, so David sends him back to battle with a note for the commander of the army to put Uriah in a place of battle where the fighting most intense. Uriah was killed, along with other men in David’s army.

This passage begins with David’s disobedience, which led to his deception, and ultimately to God’s displeasure.

  • Disobedience. David made the decision not to go with his army into battle, and in so doing shirked his responsibility as leader of the army. He compounded this error by committing adultery with Bathsheba.
  • Deception. David deceived Uriah in bringing him back from the battlefield, and again when he sent him back to the battlefield carrying a note that ordered his death. He furthered the deception with his scheme to have Uriah killed in battle.
  • Displeasure. David’s disobedience and deception may have been a successful cover-up from a human point of view, but God was not pleased (2 Samuel 11:27). God’s displeasure is apparent as the prophet Nathan confronts David with his actions. Nathan proclaims that the sword will never leave David’s house (2 Samuel 12). David repents, but God holds him accountable anyway (2 Samuel 12:14). Ultimately the entire nation suffered because of David’s transgression.

Lessons for Us—Be Accountable!

David was both accountable and responsible for Uriah’s death. It seems there was no one in his court who could, or would hold him accountable for his actions. This, of course, is what enabled him to follow this self-destructive path.

As leaders, we must ensure that we are accountable to Godly men and women who have the freedom speak into our lives. Providing accountability is one of the functions of a board of directors. Personal accountability groups or partners can also be used to provide accountability to leaders.

David may have hidden his sin from the people in his court, but he could not hide them from God. Neither can we. The repercussions for not holding ourselves and others accountable for decisions can have a disastrous ripple effect throughout our organizations.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you worked for a leader who refused to be held accountable for their decisions? What was the impact on you and your organization?

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Category:  Skills | Accountability

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