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Commentary: Accountability...do you have it?

DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Accountability is a vital attribute in all aspects of life, but especially important in the service. Everyone needs to know they can count on their wingman. This can range from covering a battle buddy's "six" as your Security Forces Squadron patrol conducts maneuvers to ensuring your unit has coverage for the daily meetings.

Responsibility goes hand-in-hand with accountability. If you're responsible for a task, you're also accountable to someone for ensuring the task is completed. Too often people are trying to figure out how not to take responsibility for something they did, or didn't do. In other words, they don't want to be held accountable.

This problem is exacerbated when supervision doesn't hold the individual accountable. A lack of accountability can affect a unit's morale. If personnel are not held accountable for their actions, others will see this as "he didn't get into trouble for doing (or not doing) X, then I'm (not) going to do Y." If this permeates the unit, morale and consequently, productivity will wane. This is unacceptable in the military, especially with our current fiscal constraints.

I see accountability and responsibility as doing the right thing, even if it's not popular, easy, or no one is looking. I don't see it as taking credit for accomplishing something. This is evidenced by the many examples of leadership failure cited in Darker Shades of Blue: A Case Study of Failed Leadership by Major Tony Kern. This case study highlights many failures in leadership leading up to the 1994 B-52 crash at Fairchild AFB. It also shows a squadron commander who put his personnel before himself while attempting (unsuccessfully) to have the mishap pilot grounded.

Accountability is an important facet leaders AND followers must embrace. If someone says they're going to accomplish a task by a certain date, they need to be held accountable if they don't produce the desired outcome. I believe this has been lost to a certain extent.

For example, suspense dates have become a suggested time to accomplish an action, if you have the time. Either accomplish the task on time or, if unable to accomplish the task, let the person for whom you're accomplishing the task, know (early and with a reason why) and request a slip in the suspense.

From a different perspective, a leader cannot efficiently lead an organization if they don't take responsibility for their actions (or inaction as the case may be). Personnel in the organization will quickly lose confidence in the leader when they find out he is not willing to take responsibility for his actions. Along with this, successful units are usually the units where the members don't care who gets the credit for an accomplishment.

When there is little or no accountability, an organization falls apart because others in the organization don't know who they can count on. Given the government's current fiscal constraints we cannot afford personnel who are not responsible or not held accountable for their actions/inaction. Looking at this another way, when personnel are held accountable and take responsibility for their actions, the mission is accomplished more efficiently because there isn't a need to re-accomplish a task someone did poorly or not at all. So, do YOU have accountability?

Original content found here.
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