Being An Above The Line Leader

Article | Accountability Insights

by | Dec 8, 2010

Whenever leaders face a problem or issue, their teams and organizations face the same or similar problems and issues. If the leader falls Below The Line—denying responsibility, blaming someone else, or making other excuses—he or she gives license to everyone on the team and in the organization to do the same. On the other hand, if the leader remains Above The Line—taking steps to See It, Own It, Solve It, and Do It—he or she models taking accountability for everyone on the team and in the organization. Leading through accountability means taking personal accountability for resolving problems or issues, regardless of who or what created them. Consider the following example of an entrepreneur, we’ll refer to him as Ray, who created a thriving tool-and-die business by leading through accountability.

Ray was known among his customers, mostly equipment manufacturers, as a supplier who owned their problems as if they were his own. Whenever one of his customers experienced difficulty with the performance of an existing part or needed help redesigning a new part, Ray and his team were there, taking ownership and finding solutions. The company’s marketing mantra was “give us a chance and you’ll never be sorry.” Ray developed the same reputation inside among the organization’s 80 people. Whenever a mistake was made, a “re-do” was required, or a delivery schedule was delayed, it immediately became a companywide problem. Everyone had to Own It, rather than finding fault, placing blame, or letting someone else deal with it. Problems and issues were individually and collectively owned—Joint Accountability—until suitable solutions were found. As a result, people learned faster, helped each other more, and found better solutions. Leading through accountability not only kept the company alive during the recent recession, when several competitors went out of business, it also strengthened an already robust and resilient organizational culture that learns from mistakes and eats problems for breakfast.

Leading through accountability can transform your team and your organization faster than you realize. When you show your people how to operate Above The Line, to See It, Own It, Solve It, and Do It every time you face a problem or issue, they will watch and learn as never before. Showing always works better than Telling. Remember, people can’t own what they don’t see, they can’t solve what they don’t own, and they can’t do what they don’t solve. Four simple Steps To Accountability—See It, Own It, Solve It, and Do It—practiced daily, will not only make you a better leader, it will make you a better developer of leaders.

For more information on leading through accountability, go to Learn how greater accountability and alignment for achieving key results can transform your team and organization today.