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The One Thing That Kills Accountability Stone Dead!

When you blame you give up your power to make changes

The blame game – it’s so easy. When shit hits the fan, the easiest thing in the world is to point fingers and find some poor unsuspecting employee to blame.

Hell, it’s so much easier just to fire whoever was responsible for creating such a panic in the first place. At least as soon as you get rid of them you’ll make sure it never happens again.

Why take the responsibility for the situation when you can blame others? Why own up to your own mistakes and shortcomings that most likely contributed to the situation?

Unfortunately, this whole idea of blaming others instead of being accountable has become part of our culture. It’s everywhere. It’s in individuals, families, celebrities, athletes, the government, and it’s very much alive in businesses.

When a leader throws his or her hands up in the air and blames someone else in the company for what’s happened, they’re pretty much saying: “Hey, it’s not my fault! It was completely out of my control!”

To the leader that blames sentences beginning with “You…”, “If only…”, and “They…” are commonplace. And if there just happens to be an “I” in there…you can almost guarantee it’ll be quickly followed by “but”.

In the world of business there are some truly expert blamers. Incredibly skilled both verbally and interpersonally, they can be captivating to watch from afar but brutal face to face. With great skill they can verbally run circles around others while appearing to be the defeater.

How do you know if you’re a blamer?

You’re hesitant to accept any kind of responsibility for your choices and actions, especially if they’ve led to an unfavorable result.

A blamer also tries to get out of a sticky situation. They’ll intentionally make it appear to be somebody else’s fault, even if they’re partly or fully to blame.

But the crazy thing is, these same people that continue to point the finger and make their employees feel insecure, are also usually the first to take the credit when everything pans out the way it should and champagne bottles are popped open.

The short of it is: bad leaders blame, great leaders don’t!

Yes, blaming is easy, too easy in fact, but it’s also extremely unproductive and detrimental. Part of being that ‘productive and creative’ leader also means taking responsibility.

Blaming others also wastes so much time. When you try to prove someone is right there’s no progress and there’s certainly no progress when trying to prove someone is WRONG!

Jim Collins refers to an effective leader’s ability to “confront the brutal facts” in his classic book Good to Great. What he means by this is to become a great leader, you ultimately have to be willing to face and accept the reality of the situation, and then deal with it. Collins’ analogy of “conducting autopsies without blaming” sums it up perfectly. In other words you need to step back, look at the situation, analyze it and figure out what actually went wrong.

Use these mistakes as invaluable lessons. Look closer at what led to those negative series of events and the decisions that contributed to the failure. It’s the perfect way to grow as leader and a team and learn.

A great leader will always take ownership of the results. They won’t try to find excuses or blame others, because when you place blame elsewhere, you’re ultimately pulling on the handbrake for any kind of improvement.

When we blame others, we’re also giving away our ability to solve the problem. There are so many different examples of business failure turning into success.

So what do you need to do?

Simple. Ask yourself: “What can I do to fix the situation we’re in and make it work?”

When you really step back and take accountability, it creates an ideal opportunity to innovate and add more value. In short, taking responsibility allows you to look forward.

Taking ownership is what sets the tone for the organization. Not only this, you’re unwittingly setting an excellent example for others to follow – you’re encouraging everyone to take ownership of their mistakes and possibly wrongdoings. Instead of creating a culture of blame, look forward and create a culture of accountability instead!


Look at how you lead in a situation when things don’t go according to plan. Monitor your speech and how you say things. Avoid using pronouns and words that suggest blame and learn how to say: “Yes, it was my mistake, and I’m working on the solution.” Remember mistakes happen all the time. We’re human after all. Just don’t let the same mistake happen twice; learn from it.

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Gordon Tredgold

Gordon Tredgold is a leadership transformation expert ranked #25 in Global Gurus Top 30 leadership gurus for 2019. Over his 25-year career Gordon has led teams of 1000+ staff in Fortune 100 companies, delivered operational cost savings of $350m and transformed delivery (from <35% to 95 %) and service levels (from 57% to 99.7%). A critically-acclaimed author, Gordon's latest book, FAST: 4 Principles Every Business Needs to Drive Success and Achieve Results, was a finalist for Management Book of the year 2017. He is a regular contributor for Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fortune and Business Insider and an international keynote speaker, recognised by Inc. Magazine as a top 100 leadership expert and speaker. Gordon works with organisations to transform culture, drive results-based leadership and rapidly accelerate organisational growth and performance.