M7D1 – Accountability and Mitigation: Introduction to the Activity

Discussion Instructions

The purpose of this discussion is to examine the concepts of responsibility and accountability and to look at how our leaders impact society with what they do or don’t do.  In our work places, we have people who are responsible either because of their positions or because they step up and accept it.  How is that different than being accountable?  When looking at these two concepts, you will want to also look at the mitigating factors that place responsibility and accountability on certain individuals.  You may want to even give personal examples of how you are responsible and/or accountable and how you deal with those concepts. 

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The module learning outcomes addressed in this activity are:

  • Differentiate between responsibility and accountability;
  • Analyze ethical, values-based leadership essential for the credibility of the government (public) service leader and impacts on society;
  • Analyze mitigating factors that cause you to hold an individual or individuals more or less responsible and accountable and what happens when these factors are breached.

Introduction to the Activity – Sample Answer

The turn of the 20th century is still remembered for the numerous societal changes that it heralded. Most of these aforementioned changes still being felt in contemporary times and now evident in current leadership practices. For the first time, leaders became an integral piece of collective governance with the minutest of decisions impact thousands of individuals under a particular jurisdiction. Responsibility and accountability thus became common terms that were often used interchangeably to underscore the impact that leaders had on society. Nonetheless, is noteworthy to concede that both terms have distinct meanings and refer to specific actions that ought to be undertaken by members of any governing body. In essence, responsibility refers to the act of being in charge of a particular project and owning an individual task (Bergsteiner, 2014, p.56). Here, obligations can be shared and leaders can delegate such duties. On the other hand, accountability refers to a leader’s answerability and liability whenever they are expected to provide an account of matters that transpired during their watch. Accountable leadership, therefore, entails taking ownership of responsibilities while still making certain that one has a clear understanding of the commitments required before pledging to take on a specific task.

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            As a rule of thumb, ethical and value-based leadership is an essential component of leadership, especially with regard to the credibility of government (public) service leaders. Ethics and values play a vital role in our lives and are often meant to guide individuals into making sound decisions. To this end, a leader who extols value-based leadership has the ability to perform their job meticulously, with the highest level of professionalism and allegiance to their oath of office. Consequently, when a genuine alignment is established between a leader and the organization which they serve under, a powerful association is created. This allows such an individual to exploit their full potential for individual growth while still ensuring that they use their position for the citizenry’s benefit. In particular, a government service leader now has a unique opportunity to fuse these ideal personal values and, in the process, dedicating their life’s work to altruistic ventures and service delivery (Leadership & Browning, 2012).

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Moreover, it allows them to implement a decent degree of fair dealings that will aid in curbing the fomenting of parochial feelings in persons who usually feel marginalized. Trust can be natured through such initiatives with the public ultimately believing in this value-based decision making model.  There are a myriad of mitigating factors that may cause one to hold an individual more or less accountable. Similarly, punitive measures are bound to be implemented once any of these factors is tampered with and a breach evident. To begin with, felt responsibility presents a mitigating factor where the “accountee” needs to be well aware of their cognitive and emotional acceptance one they take over their role. In this sense, it is imperative that a leader consider their perceived contribution to a situation’s outcome without having to shift part of the blame to other members in the team. It is also important to acknowledge that the degree of this felt responsibility may be influenced by certain defense mechanisms and personal values held by the individual on the helm of power. A leader may be forced to explain why a particular initiative was not undertaken or why a particular disaster occurred under their watch. In such a scenario, the leader may be forced to justify their evaluation of such an eventuality with the hope that their perspective will be accepted after much deliberation. Whether or not they were faced with complex nascent procedures, unforeseen external circumstances or incompetence, they will be held liable and expected to face castigatory actions.

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