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Why I Believe Action + Accountability Will Be Guiding Leadership Principles in 2021

Leadership advice to boost confidence and collaboration in the new year

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The world is hopeful for 2021—it’s a new year and expectations are high after what’s been a monumental shift for our culture in 2020. We are all looking to leaders to guide the way and give us the answers we seek about what’s to come. While no one has a crystal ball, there are a few ways I’ve learned to thrive utilizing my own professional leadership style that may help other leaders plan for a pivotal year in the workforce.

The two traits I hold most closely as a leader, and what I expect from others, are action and accountability. An action orientation is critical to make decisions and move business forward. I lean toward collaborative and inclusive—on the spectrum, it’s the polar opposite of command and control. Textbooks would say that means I’d be light on decision making. In fact, I’m very decisive, but I don’t believe my first thought is the only guiding barometer. Instead, I’m curious about how the opinion of others will inform and challenge the status quo, which ultimately leads to shared accountability among the team. 

Here’s my advice for others who share my idealism for the coming year on how to incorporate action and accountability into everyday organizational operations:

Set concrete plans

Plans can always change—in fact, they should. But I think many people are afraid to put a firm “plan” in place because it feels too final. Go against your instincts and commit. There’s always room to revise thinking and pivot based on circumstance; but once a plan is in place, action happens. Make sure every conversation—even a small one—has a clear action item to move the idea forward.

Identify and call out decision makers

As a high-ranking person in the room, I’m often looked to for the final call on decisions; but in most situations, there are multiple stakeholders, and you need lots of nods. Identify the approvers and clearly assign everyone involved utilizing a RACI-type model (responsible, approver, consulted, informed). Consulted and informed stakeholders can still weigh in, but clear roles eliminate uncertainty and raise confidence for those who are responsible. That’s accountability.

Set up a culture to challenge

We all bring different life experiences to the table, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to use their voice to push and pull on ideas and make them the best possible. Especially as we all look to build a more diverse and inclusive culture, we are layering in a new level of accountability. We owe it to our audiences to carefully consider different perspectives and ensure that the problem is attacked from multiple angles. There’s often more than one answer—good leaders make sure that door is open so the best answer makes its way to the top of the consideration set.

Hold teams accountable to the idea

Accountability is not just about follow through with timelines and deadlines—it’s living up to the promise to deliver what you said you would to the end customer. Through tools and processes we use to solve issues like customer experience, we’re constantly using data and a collaborative team approach for checks and balances along the creative process. Are we staying true to the insight? Does every part of our idea clearly show the answer? Ideas don’t live and die in presentations; they’re constantly evolving and need to be attended to on a regular basis to perform.

Ultimately, action and accountability move ideas forward—with the new year serving as inspiration for many of us to grow and improve. The motivation is there, and your organization is looking to you to make 2021 great. Let’s make it happen.

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