The Empowered Blog

The Accountable Leader: Developing the Right Mindset That Ignite Performance (Part 1)

  • Are your leaders struggling to get strong performance from your people?
  • Are your leaders driving results through their own efforts, not their team?
  • Is your company suffering from operational breakdowns, late deliveries, low employee motivation and more?

accountability mindset

Accountable Leader

Today’s most successful companies all have one trait in common.  Their high performance organizations are driven by a strong accountability culture.  Yet despite many companies’ well-intentioned efforts to create strong accountability, leaders still struggle to make it a reality.  Mediocrity, lack of execution and operational breakdowns are hallmarks of poor accountability and an out of control, under-performing organization.

The REAL Truth Why Your Leaders are Struggling with Accountability and Under-performing Teams:

  • As a leader, you can’t develop strong results-driven accountability with your team unless you have strong personal accountability with YOURSELF.  This capability is part of self leadership.  You can’t hold others accountable if you don’t take responsibility for your own actions, behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, choices and results.  Because employees model what leaders do, a leader’s weak personal accountability perpetuates a cycle of poor  organizational performance.
  • As a leader, you lack critical “soft,” people skills — such as addressing interpersonal conflict, and engaging and motivating employees — that drive organizational accountability and performance.
 Employees follow you and are motivated to perform for their reasons, not yours.  For this reason, weak leadership “soft” skills cripple employee engagement and performance and is a costly epidemic in today’s business world.
  • Most leaders lack the necessary mindset, capabilities and practices to drive strong accountability – a “must” for high achieving organizations.  Strong accountability starts first with the right mindset.  No performance system, set of metrics or people practices by themselves can make up for a lack of understanding what healthy accountability is and is not.  Lacking the right mindset perpetuates accountability breakdowns and a low performing organization.

The Accountability Mindset Your Leaders and Employees Need Instead to Drive Growth and Profitability

Your mindset is your mental map, cognitive filters and internal glasses that color your view of yourself and the world.   These mental filters drive your thoughts, feelings, motivations, behaviors, communications and, ultimately, results …  without your conscious awareness.

From a leadership standpoint, I call these mental filters your inner leadership game.   As a leader, the most important game you will ever play is the game within your mind. 

Let’s look at the components of your inner leadership game for building strong accountability and a high performance organization.

Grand Purpose/Vision

Often organizations treat accountability as an end in itself, rather than as a means to an end. Such organizations narrowly focus on the how of accountability and forget the why. 

Be the Architect of Your Future Story

Grand Mission

Accountability means more than achieving performance goals.  To motivate your employees to deliver results, accountability requires a profoundly deep understanding why and for whom your employees perform.

Zappos credits its multi-billion dollar success and organizational passion because every employee knows his/her significant role in keeping the Zappos vision alive.


  • As a leader, for what grand purpose does your organization exist?  
  • To what extent do your employees know that purpose?  
  • To what extent are you reinforcing  each employee’s vital role to that purpose?


Values are the qualities and principles you most value.  Your top 3 values drive 90% of our focus, decision-making, time usage, behaviors and outcomes.  If accountability is not amongst those, your attempts will be undermined and lack sustainability.

Important values considerations as a leader for cultivating a strong accountability culture  include:

  •  Is accountability an explicit core or operational value for your organization?  is it a top personal value for you?
  •  Do you have an agreed upon definition as to what healthy accountability is and what critical behaviors will drive it?
  • Are there other values that are perceived by you or your employees as conflicting or competing with accountability in your organization?  If so, how will you resolve that conflict?

If any of the above are not addressed, accountability efforts will suffer.


Beliefs are thought patterns, convictions or judgments about yourself, others and the world around you.  They make up the boundary conditions of your thinking and the parameters of your inner game rule book. 

Most organizations struggle with accountability because of the unconscious negative beliefs their leaders and employees hold about accountability. Those beliefs are often the byproduct  of past negative experiences with accountability during upbringing, with a former employer, etc.  To assess the impact of these beliefs on accountability, ask yourself:

  • When you think of  accountability, what associations, emotional reactions or thoughs come up?  Are these associations positive, negative or neutral? 
  •  If any negative associations about accountability, how can you redefine it so there is emotional buy-in, organizational alignment and it motivates employees to drive their own results?

This article covered 3 out of the 6 factors of your inner game and its relationship to accountability.  Part 2 will cover the remaining 3 factors: your leadership identity, motivational patterns and emotional state.  Part 3 will cover leadership practices and culture changes critical for a strong accountability organization.

The single most important takeaway is to understand that your inner leadership games drives 90% of your performance and results, including accountability.

If you would like more details about your inner leadership game, I invite you to download a complimentary report:  Wired to Win Big;  7 Inner Game Leadership Strategies for Rising to the Top and Staying There.


Denise Corcoran – CEO, The Empowered BusinessTM – helps growth-seeking companies develop game-changing leadership teams and organizations that drive and sustain profitable growth by design.   Denise can be reached at


Denise Corcoran works with CEOs and executive teams seeking rapid growth yet are challenged by the “invisible barriers” that keep them stuck, overwhelmed or in crisis mode. Her company —The Empowered Business — is one of the few companies providing whole brain, strategic solutions for unleashing leadership and organizational potential. Her secret sauce is assisting CEOs and executive teams develop the “X factor” – i.e., the mindset, attitudes and game-changing thinking -- that drives double and triple digit growth … by design.


Posted by Denise Corcoran on December 7, 2012 in Accountability, Alignment, Company Culture, Employee Engagement, Leadership Development, Leadership Performance, Mindset, Organizational Performance and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , .

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