Good Habits #36: Be Accountable

By | February 20, 2018

[February 20, 2018]  U.S. President Harry S Truman had a sign on his desk that was there to show he personally accepted responsibility for the way the country was run.  The sign read, “The buck stops here.”  Good habits by leaders start at accepting responsibility for their actions and the best leaders do this daily.

Leaders don’t try to shift the blame onto others because they are accountable for what happens and for what doesn’t happen in regard to their own behavior.  Many leaders will resist this idea because, as the logic goes, they simply follow orders or are fearful of being unfairly blamed for things not their fault.  That idea went out at the Nuremberg Nazi Trials after World War II.

“The ancient Romans had a tradition: Whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible: He stood under the arch.” – Michael Armstrong

Like the Ancient Roman engineer, the buck stops here is more than just words on an office sign.  It’s a philosophy of leadership with a material meaning that no one else is answerable for any failure that occurs.  If the arch fell, it would matter little if he could have blamed someone else for its collapse.

While serving as a U.S. Artillery Captain during World War I, Truman captured the respect and admiration of his men because they knew he would not shift the blame on them for the unit’s failures.  He earned their trust by backing them up.  Truman didn’t learn accountability during the war but it was reinforced upon him that it works.

Great leaders understand the concept of accountability and what it means to those who worked for them.  I’ve been fortunate to have worked for those, like Truman, who are accountable.  The freedom it gave me knowing that my boss would have my back was a relief.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

2 thoughts on “Good Habits #36: Be Accountable

  1. Jesse

    So many don’t know the meaning of the word accountable. Just like my old boss. Blaming me for his mistakes was standard fare.


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