“Leader” isn’t just a title you’re given at your job. It’s a way of being in which you take accountability not only for your actions but your outcomes. A leader isn’t afraid to commit to their vision because they know that failure is a mindset, not a reality. Anyone can be an accountable leader if they follow these four steps:

1. Take a personal inventory.

Every leader must take personal inventory of their strengths, weaknesses and the ego traps they’re likely to get caught up in.

Strengths are the things a person is really good at it, either naturally or because they’ve had practice. For example, someone might be a great orator or they might have a knack for seeing complex patterns. They might have tremendous compassion and be a great manager of people, or they might be a visionary who can see where culture is headed before everyone else. It’s important for a leader to know their strengths so they can capitalize on them, hone them and put their energy and time into activities that utilize those strengths.

Weaknesses are the opposite of strengths — things that a person isn’t that great at. The person who is a great manager of people might not be a great project manager due to poor organizational skills. The great orator might be bad at planning ahead and the creative visionary may not be very good at everyday administration. The leader should also know their weaknesses so they can either try to strengthen them or delegate tasks that require those skills to someone else.

Knowing your common ego traps is perhaps the most important personal inventory a leader can take. Ego traps are those reactivities you’re likely to have. For example, one leader might be quick to anger when someone disagrees with them, while another leader might become fearful in unknown situations. Some leaders get so caught up in wanting to be perfect that they don’t take action, while other leaders will do anything to be seen as the best, including lie about or ignore mistakes. It’s important that leaders know these things about themselves so they can catch when it’s happening and take the necessary steps to reverse it. Falling into our ego traps is easy to do and totally human, but it prevents leaders from being accountable and is something all leaders must actively work on.

2. Get clear on outcomes. 

One of the ways leaders avoid accountability is not being clear on what they’re being accountable for. When we have vague or nonexistent ideas of where we’re going, we don’t have to be accountable because we don’t even know where we’re going or what we’re trying to accomplish. Purposeful and clear outcomes are the prerequisite to accountability. 

When determining desired outcomes, really think about where you want to go and why. In a business setting, this will be your business outcome. What is your vision for the company? If your goals were achieved, what would that look and feel like, and what would be the ultimate purpose? Business leaders often get lost in standard metrics and goals, but as leaders, we need to look toward what kind of world we’re creating, both inside and outside of our organization. In personal leadership accountability, your outcomes will likely be the experience you want to have. If you want more money, think about why you want it and what the purpose is. If you have a health goal, think of your purpose for being healthy and what kind of life experience you’re looking for.

Only once we have clear, specific and purposeful outcomes can we be accountable to them. Otherwise, we are chasing metrics, numbers and task-completion that doesn’t mean anything and doesn’t lead us where we want to go.

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3. Take action.

This one might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many leaders avoid taking action. Why? Because once you take action, you have to be accountable for your goals. It’s easy to plan and imagine and think about the action you want to take, but actually doing it puts you in the vulnerable position of being able to fail. The good news, as I said before, is that failure is a mindset, not a reality. No one fails unless they stop learning. Taking action is courageous and required if you want to be an accountable leader.

4. Learn and adjust.

Perhaps the most important step of being an accountable leader is the commitment to learning and adjusting. We can’t know what lies ahead in the unknown, so we can only plan and predict to the best of our ability based on a guess and look at patterns from history. Our first attempts will be far from perfect and they likely will not get us where we want to go. To reach our desired outcomes, we must be willing to let ourselves fail so that we can learn and make adjustments. Accountable leaders never stop learning, and they know that getting on the field or in the ring, even if they get knocked out sometimes, is the best and quickest way to learn.

When we move toward our goals, dreams or desired outcomes in life and in business, we are going to fumble along the way and leaders know that the obstacles and difficulties they encounter are not there to thwart them but rather to help them learn.

This article was first published via Forbes and on the B State Blog.


  • Mark Samuel is a transformative leader with over 30 years of experience in the business world. He has helped hundreds of companies overcome stagnation, transform their businesses, and eliminate toxic work cultures to increase profits, morale, and customer experience. Mark trains leaders on how to implement sustainable changes within just one or two months--a revolutionary approach that he's pioneered with his team at IMPAQ. Mark writes frequently for Forbes and Thrive Global, and hosts the Conscious Leadership with Mark Samuel podcast. He is the author of 7 books, including his newest book, the USA TODAY / Wall Street Journal Bestseller "Reimagine Teams".