This is one of those topics where you really should not even get me going. I am insanely passionate about the importance of good leadership, and equally passionate about accountability within an organization - starting with top leadership.

An Accountability Failure

Lately, I've watched a friend and coworker who works on another magazine struggle through someone else on her team not being held accountable. Without going into great detail, her coworker rides the excuse wagon every day (a.k.a. a car accident, son with toothache, she sprained her ankle, and had to go to urgent care five times in the same week) ... and that happens almost every week. In the beginning, I'm definitely the type to give people the benefit of the doubt, but that cannot continue forever, and yet it has. Over and over again, my friend has been called upon to pick up the slack for her coworker. Time after time, her coworker fails to fulfill her job responsibilities, yet no one holds her accountable for her actions - so she continues feeling as though she can act as she does.

So what's the real harm in all of that, you may ask? Well the problem is my friend now struggles on a daily basis with feeling taken advantage of and frustrated watching her coworker get away with what, at this point, feels like murder.

Within the last month, my friend got a promotion - but the 100 percent truth is that is not enough; that is not going to make her happy. There are still many days where she feels she is ready to move on to another job - yet at the root of everything, likes the company for which we work. But after years of being a hard worker and finally getting some recognition, it might be too late.

I've pretty much gathered at this point that no one on my friend's team knows how to lead, despite being in positions of authority. Instead, they lay out commands and move on with their own work, blind to everything happening around them. Sorry, but if you're a leader, you have to be in the trenches with your team. You don't get to bark out orders then head into your office and close the door. You won't build much respect that way. It's a shame there isn't an avenue for open conversation between my friend and the rest of her team; a leader has an open door, and a passion for accountability.

Patchwork Doesn't Work

You cannot put a patch on a clear problem. As a leader, you must hold those on your team accountable - and yourself accountable. As a leader, holding yourself accountable means sometimes getting your hands dirty. You cannot ignore problems within your team. However, you can find diplomatic and effective ways to handle them that build your employees up - while laying a firm hand. This is called being a leader - building your team up and bringing them to the next level with you.

If there are toxic people on the team, and attempts to get them on the boat just aren't working, it might be time to let them go. Trust me, your employees will thank you - and you will thank yourself when you see an immediate boost in morale and perhaps even work ethic once the poison has been removed.

Quit Being a Boss

If you feel you're caught in a tough place with your team, here are some things to remember about being a leader, not a boss.

  1. Leaders listen. If you've read some of my other columns, you've probably read about one of my previous bosses who believed in barking orders and never had any interest in listening to what anyone else had to say. His word with gospel. So new ideas never circulated, people left after just a year or so with the company, and morale was low - all the time. The company had a serious problem with keeping its leadership accountable; it cultivated bosses, not leaders. Please don't just bark orders and only speak to your employees when something goes wrong.
  2. Leaders motivate, not terrify. This is in line with some things I mentioned above. My previous boss ruled by fear. His emails and reprimands were nasty and made you feel as though the world was crumbling around you. They were debilitating. No, I am not exaggerating. And he never once pointed out anything good. It was only ever what went wrong. A better route would be, again, to be in the trenches with your team! Lead them up the mountain, motivate them to do better, build them up - do not tear them down. Fear not only cripples your employee's confidence, it cripples your company's success.
  3. Leaders teach, don't expect. Boy it's interesting how all these points go so hand-in-hand. My past boss expected everyone to do big, amazing things - but never taught anyone how to do it. And if someone had the guts to try something new, and it didn't work out - watch out. You cannot expect your team to do things they don't know how to do. Yes, there is some leeway in this. If you are working to inspire your team and give them some free rein and they don't respond, then there are other problems we won't address here. However, thoughts in your head are only thoughts if you don't share them with your team. Take those thoughts to the people you know can run with them best based on their individual talents and watch them soar under your leadership.
  4. Leaders give credit. Okay, last point here. Please be sure to acknowledge success within your company. Please be sure to build your employees up, and give credit where credit is due. I'm not talking about over inflating egos; I'm talking about making sure you take time to notice what your employees are doing right. This can be as simple as an email, a comment in passing, or as big as sharing the success during a company meeting, or giving an actual reward like a gift card or small bonus. The catch with giving credit is you must be consistent, and you must be fair. 

Leadership is not necessarily a hard skill; but it is one that takes developing. Some people are born to be leaders, and some are not - but that doesn't mean you cannot evolve into being a better leader. The most you ditch the "boss" mentality and adopt the "leader" mentality, the more successful you and your employees will be together.