During a recent conversation with a friend, I asked him what has been consuming his thoughts lately. He was quiet for a while as he pondered the question. Then, he said a lot of his thoughts have been centered on the importance of us holding one another accountable. He said doing so would demonstrate the type of community we truly want to become.
Immediately I got excited, because the same thoughts had dominated my mind for the past couple of weeks. While accountability was the key word he used, my word was leadership. Both accountability and leadership have their own distinct definitions, but the way my friend and I referenced them, they could be interchangeable, as leaders should be accountable and individuals who demonstrate accountability are, in a sense, leaders.
As our conversation progressed, we surmised that there are specific areas in which people can individually demonstrate leadership and accountability in an effort to make our communities better places to live and work.
Here are a few examples:
In our work environments, each of us can be more accountable by owning up to our mistakes, treating one another fairly and being the person others can depend on to make the best decisions for them and the place of work in general. Leadership is not always popular — sometimes, tough decisions have to be made. Sometimes, things have to be done that may not make you the most liked. And sometimes leadership means owning up to and taking responsibility for things that you have done wrong. Leadership and proper accountability are not blaming others for things that ultimately are your responsibility. Leadership is stepping up when things are uncomfortable. Leadership is accountability and perseverance.
When I think of effective leadership and accountability, I often think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The man was highly gifted intellectually, graduating from college at a young age. I often say King could have very easily gotten a regular job out of the spotlight that provided financial and emotional security for him and his family. He could have opted for the path of least resistance, but he didn’t. He chose to step up because he realized the needs of the community were more significant than his individual wants and needs. King’s leadership and accountability weren’t pleasing to some people and, ultimately, he paid the price with his life. Leadership can often be uncomfortable, which is why people who have the heart, tenacity, skills and accountability for it are the most effective.
Effective parenting takes true leadership and accountability. Denial is not an option. My friend with whom I had the aforementioned conversation said parents can’t be in denial, nor can they ignore the reality of a situation. “For instance,” he said, “if your son comes home with $500 worth of shoes and you know he doesn’t have a job or money to purchase those shoes, you need to probe to determine how he was able to obtain the shoes.” Unfortunately, some parents turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to things in their children’s lives that need to be addressed. Being a strong leader who holds children accountable will make that child an overall better person and, ultimately, the community will be enhanced as a result. One last thing: Parenting is not limited to the actual parents of a child. Parenting should be extended to other family members, individuals in the community and even teachers and school administrators. Only then will we see change on a larger scale.
Being accountable in our relationships is also extremely important. Assuming responsibility, treating one another respectfully and leading in positive ways will make relationships stronger. It’s important to note that these strategies aren’t just for romantic relationships, but also platonic relationships and even our relationships with family members.
When I think about the type of community I want, I visualize one that is more kind, respectful and productive. If we all strive to be more accountable leaders, we will only enhance the greatness that is within each of us. That is when the fruits of our labor will be most evident.