Avoiding or Embracing Accountability?

Avoiding or Embracing Accountability?

How would you assess your ability to hold others accountable? According to the Workplace Accountability Study, 82% of the 40,000 surveyed admitted to either attempting and failing or outright avoiding this responsibility – quite alarming!


What implications does this have for leaders striving to nurture high-performing teams? Unfortunately, it doesn’t bode well. Accountability is a pivotal component in the five functions of a high-performing team, and its absence can significantly hinder team success. Let’s delve into how accountability, or the lack thereof, manifests within teams before exploring methods to assess the level of accountability your team exhibits

Diagnosing Accountability Levels – The Accountability Ladder


The accountability ladder was popularised in 2007 by Bruce Gordon, and serves as a diagnostic tool enabling leaders and employees to gauge their level of accountability, ranging from 1 (minimal accountability) to 8 (maximal accountability).

  • The bottom half of the ladder represents those who perceive themselves as victims of circumstance. These individuals typically deflect accountability with excuses or blame. The lowest level of accountability is “no one told me,” implying a complete lack of initiative. Moving upward, accountability widens to include consideration for others and proactive problem-solving.
  • At the midpoint, acknowledging reality marks the crucial step toward embracing accountability. From there, individuals take ownership, driving positive outcomes and growth.
  • At the top half of the ladder individuals become more and more aware of their role in shaping their outcomes. Teams thrive in an environment where accountability is paramount. Mistakes become learning opportunities, conflicts are resolved constructively, and the focus shifts to solutions rather than blame.



What behaviours are you encouraging or worse, unintentionally rewarding?

For leaders, it’s essential to lead by example, fostering a culture where accountability flourishes. By providing clear direction, addressing blame culture, and empowering individuals, you can propel your team to new heights of success.


‘When everyone chooses to be responsible, no-one is to blame’ Will Schutz, creator of FIRO


Ready to achieve remarkable results with your team? Contact us today to discover how our expert guidance can empower your organisation. With our Elevate Programme, specifically designed for middle managers, unlock the full potential of your team and lead with confidence and innovation.



  • Gordon, B. The Accountability Ladder (2007).
  • Lencioni, P. M. (2002). The five dysfunctions of a team. Jossey-Bass.
  • Partners in Leadership. Workplace Accountability Study (2015).
  • Schutz, W. C. (1958). FIRO: A three-dimensional theory of interpersonal behaviour. Rinehart.
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