What does it mean to be a leader today? The answer to that question can be found in some very unusual places. I personally found insight into the accountable leadership issue on a recent trip to India, and specifically to the Dharavi slum in Mumbai, home to more than one million people. Visiting an area of incredible poverty can be humbling, and my visit was no different. But beyond the obvious socio-economic challenges, I also witnessed astounding acts of entrepreneur thinking and accountable leadership.
Dharavi is a thriving commercial district, home to thousands of business enterprises. More than 80 per cent of Mumbai’s plastics are recycled in Dharavi, and up to 3.5 tons of commercial food is produced each day. More than three-quarters of the people who live in Dharavi are gamefully employed, an astounding accomplishment in this impoverished area. I spoke with Reality Tours where one of their initiatives is the provision of education and life skills to the children in a makeshift school with blue walls and a mismatch of schools desks.
More importantly, despite the difficult circumstances, I was able to witness the very essence of entrepreneurial thinking and accountable leadership. Walking through the industrial section of Dharavi you see enterprising people who step up, work hard, and work together to survive.
Feedback from our customers supports my experience at Dharavi, and the view that leadership is about trust, commitment, communication and drive, a combination of traits and a specific set of skills. Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH) partnered with HRPS, the executive branch of SHRM and surveyed business executives of which 20% were from Fortune 500 companies, to explore the issues which yielded surprising and illuminating data. What did we find?
- 73% of organizations believe that leadership accountability is a critical business issue
- Only 37% of organizations are satisfied with the level of leadership accountability demonstrated by their leaders.
I recently presented a session in Bangalore and asked the participants to consider the question; is leadership accountability a critical business issues in your organization that needs to be addressed? The response was an overwhelming ‘yes.’
What is Leadership Accountability and why is there a gap? My colleague Vince Molinaro examines the concept in his book, The Leadership Contract. He argues that being a truly accountable leader is the only way to build an organization that can thrive. He also explores what it takes to become the dynamic leader your organization needs.
Let’s explore the four terms of The Leadership Contract, the fundamental principles of accountable leadership. As well, we’ll look at a series of questions you can ask yourself and your teams that can serve as triggers for some extremely meaningful and practical conversations that can start the process of establishing enterprise wide accountability.
1. Leadership is a Decision – Make It, pause and consider the ramifications.
- What is our vision of a truly accountable team?
- Are we “all in” as individual team members and fully committed to create and sustain a truly accountable team?
- Do we have clarity regarding our mutual expectations of one another?
2. Leadership is an Obligation – Step Up, define your desired value and impact
- In what ways, will we individually and collectively step up to our core obligation?
- How do we intend to leave our organization in better shape than we found it?
- How will we set the tone and be an example of a truly accountable team to others in our organization?
3. Leadership is Hard Work – Get Tough, tackle the hard work that is at the very heart of the role
- What is the hard work that this team must tackle in order for us to be successful?
- What are the tough conversations we must have as a team? And with other teams, we will work with?
- How must we demonstrate resilience and resolve as a team?
4. Leadership is a Community – Connect, be a community builder
- How will we establish a real sense of community within our team?
- In what ways will we have each other’s backs?
- How will we support the success of other teams that we will work with across our organization?
Closing the leadership accountability gap begins when you acknowledge that taking on a leadership role means you will be held to higher standards of performance and behavior. It is a recognition that you are signing up for something important. That it will require you to serve as a role model. Leadership is a human endeavor and every employee is entitled to the dignity of exceptional leaders.