Leadership Lesson: Diversity, Equity, and Accountability


Let’s face it, we are all “diverse” in one way or another. It is our differences that can make our workplaces more interesting, fun, and rewarding. Leaders must understand how our individual differences can be harnessed through mutual respect, trust, and patience. People are not machines. If leaders want employees to be more effective and productive, they must find ways to actively lead each employee through thoughtful engagement, striving for equity, and effective two-way communication. We each bring our own history, unique insights and experiences into our workplaces, but we may not have all the same experiences and skills for every job, task, or expectation. So, leaders must make allowances for gaps of skills and experiences related to workplace expectations. They must also learn to understand how to keep employees motivated and meeting the expectations of the organization’s goals. Leaders have the biggest influence on employee job satisfaction. Satisfied employees are generally more productive than ones who are not feeling it.


Personal responsibility and having a sense of ownership in on organization are the roots of accountability. Leaders and employees are of equal standing in this case, despite the differences in scope of duties. Regardless of position and titles in the organization, all must be held accountable for their decisions and actions with regard to their roles and responsibilities. No organization cannot function efficiently and effectively as possible without accountability. Being accountable is one thing; making it a part of organizational culture is another. The short answer is that accountability starts at the top and then it is the leader’s job to be the most influential proponent of the idea. Leader can do this by committing to roles and responsibilities, building good lines of communications, and fostering mutual collaborations among employees.

 1.      Be committed to your roles

 The best way to ask employees to perform their duties well is to be a role model of that. You can only expect others to do what they are assigned to do if you practice the same principle. Consistency lays the path to accountability; employees will expect you to keep promises and deliver exactly as planned.

 Leaders, just like employees, are held accountable for every decision they make. Discrepancy between what’s said and done leaves the door open for distrust to enter. Trust is always being tested. Trust is the glue of all relationships. So, leaders must never fail employees on giving trust or violating expectations.  Employees also turn to leaders for guidance because they see someone of authority as the most reliable person to provide suggestions. Consistency and reliability are the personal traits that put you in a position to lead others. So commit to your role as a leader by nurturing and influencing employees to develop the same traits. If all employees are committed to their roles and responsibilities, accountability is easy to come by.

 2.      Build comprehensive lines of communication

 By definition, the term “comprehensive” means including all aspects or elements of something. Having a comprehensive line of communication helps you monitor performance and results across all work areas. A leader alone can hardly cope with all the departments and on-going projects, but an always-open channel of communication ensures good flows of information as everything happens. To some extent, you can almost call it a practice of “constant observation” of performance. Effective coaching to help employees be successful can only happen if there is clear understanding of where the may be knowledge or skill gaps. You must be able to correctly diagnose the problem, before you can give the correct remedy.

 In an ideal world, employees should always perform well whether or not they are under supervision. However, good flows of factual information to the leader is a preventive measure to minimize the possibility of not being disciplined. That way nobody can escape from responsibilities of work, hence being accountable. On the more positive side, good flows of information also allows for quicker delivery of suggestions and feedback.  Great leaders must understand what is going on and remove obstacles, give proper support, and resource. Set each employee up for success by understanding them, their needs, and challenges.

 3.      Foster collaboration

 When people talk about accountability, most of the time it carries a negative connotation that a person is to blame because of a wrongdoing. In a larger organizational context, however, accountability refers to doing the job well in accordance to the instructions and expectations. All employees can be accountable if there is mutual collaboration or good interpersonal relationships among them in which everyone is friendly, supportive, and helpful as far as their professional capacity allows. While employees do not answer to their own peers, the sense of belonging to the same group empowers them to hold each other accountable and get the job done for the benefit of organization in general.

 The leader is responsible to help employees improve performance and guide them to success. Accountability is among many different personal characteristics to develop. One thing to remember is that the leader cannot simply demand accountability and make it happen. There is a learning process which may unfortunately involve employees making mistakes. Remember that a workplace is a learning environment where ideas and achievements as well as failures and disappointments are all natural aspects. The best kind of accountability is one that grows from constant learning process rather than a trait forced upon those unwilling to learn.

 A leaders’ attitude and approach to taking action can lower or increase levels of trust. Employees must feel adequately supported and their diversity and authentic-self must be respected too.  Leaders have the biggest influence over an employee’s success and job satisfaction. It is important to remember that when leaders fail to support an employee properly with the right kind of care, communication, and respect, they may lose motivation, and start looking for work in a workplace that is more fulfilling—potentially making your competition stronger with the training you provided the unsatisfied employee. It is usually more cost-effective to take time to listen to employees, provide clear expectations of accountability, then coach employees to success while giving the proper support and resources to become experts in what you need them to do.

 Make good choices and have a great day! Only you get to choose how you feel about it!

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Dr. Paul Gerhardt is a skilled leadership and diversity trainer who builds customized workshops online or at your workplace. He is a tenured professor of management. He is a diversity and leadership well-respected and trusted trainer who helps organizations get amazing returns on their training investment.

Dr. Gerhardt is the author of several publications available on Amazon.com, including Diversity at Work, The Diversity King; Leadership Lucy and the Leadership Handbook. Consider inviting Dr. Paul Gerhardt to do customized leadership or diversity training at your organization. Most organizations find that diversity and leadership training by the right trainer yields a significant instant return on investment. You can get your FREE COPY of the Leadership Handbook by clicking this link: http://bit.ly/LeadershipHandbook




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