Love, Accountability and Leadership

by  Mike Henry  |  Leadership Development

“If you messed up, wouldn’t you want someone to tell you?”

I remember thinking that question when talking with a friend one time about the performance of a co-worker.  The co-worker seldom did this one particular task properly. In fact, it had been performed in error so much that my friend thought their co-worker was incapable of doing it right.  So my friend went on correcting the error and reliving the frustration.

Only an act of love will make this situation right.

That’s right.  I said love.  Love is an unconditional concern and action for another.  On Valentine’s day we generally mistake real love for the gooey emotion, anticipation and excitement that we feel for a mate.

But love is a verb.  Love is what happens when we put someone else ahead of ourselves.  The anticipation and excitement of love is anticipating the best for another; not for myself.  Love seeks the best for another.

So if my excitement and amorous affection for my wife is simply wrapped up in how she makes me feel, that’s not love.  Love is what she does that makes me feel that way.  Love is given first.  It becomes real when we put the best interests of someone else above our own.

My friend wasn’t doing what was best for that other person.  It’s never in the best interest of another to let them underperform.  It’s never best to “carry” them when they can develop the strength and skill to carry themselves.  It’s never best to “just do it myself” for the long haul.

But we all do it.  We all take the easy way from time to time and do something ourself rather than taking the time to hold others accountable.  Accountability is a pain.  We have to find out why they didn’t follow the procedure and we have to then go through it again with them.  Then we have to follow up and watch them do it again.  What a drag.  It’s so easy to just do it ourselves.

I’m guilty of doing it myself out of laziness almost every day.  Today though, I’m not going to go along with the lazy and selfish me.  Today, I’m going to spend some time and hold others accountable out of love.  It’s never in someone’s best interest to deliver less than expected.  It’s never in someone’s best interest to withhold feedback that would bring peace and improvement.  Laziness and selfishness are never best.  Never.

So if I call you soon, it may be for a conversation just like this one.  Maybe you need to call me.  Then do it.  Call whoever you need.  Seek the peace and the joy that comes from relationship balance and accountability.  Seek the flow that comes when two people understand each other and work in harmony to achieve goals they could never do on their own.  And if someone calls you, take it like an adult and seek to understand.  Remember they’re helping you get better because they love you.  It’s much easier to just leave you alone!

For Valentine’s Day, what can you do that you’ve been avoiding out of selfishness.  Do something about it today.

Photo © verte – Fotolia.com

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About The Author

Articles By mike-henry
Chief Instigator (Founder) of Lead Change Group and VP of IT for a mid sized technology company. Passionate about character-based leadership and making a positive difference.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Deborah Costello  |  14 Feb 2012  |  Reply

I love this post Mike because it is so true. So many times we do things ourselves because it is easier than the work it takes to ensure another is held accountable. I see it all the time in the children I teach. As parents it is important that we allow our children to be held accountable and to hold them accountable ourselves. Every action has consequences and nothing is learned until we experience these consequences. It is hard work and emotionally difficult, but real love often is…

Thank you Mike, and have a wonderful, mushy, accountable Valentine’s Day!
Give my best to your beautiful Vicki…

Mike Henry  |  14 Feb 2012  |  Reply

Thanks for the great comment Deb. We (at least I) have to remember to expend the energy in my most important relationships. I hold others accountable so that doing their work doesn’t cut into my personal time or my family’s time. And I have to have the courage to say “No” sometimes too. Sounds like another post. Thanks again for the comment and the wishes. Have a great Valentine’s Day.


Tara R. Alemany  |  14 Feb 2012  |  Reply

It’s funny, Mike, but my kids came to mind, like Deb’s. Over the past few months, emotional overwhelm has kept me from holding them accountable to do the things they rightfully should be doing. In the absence of my prompting, chores were either not being done or I was doing them to avoid conflict, oversight responsibilities, etc.

A couple of weeks ago, I started requiring certain things to be done again, and was amazed at how easy it was to do. There was no grumbling or resistance. They simply needed to know I still wanted them to do it.

By doing it for them, they were feeling unnecessary and, as a result, unloved. Holding them accountable and letting them know that, yes, they did still need to put their dishes in the sink when they were done eating, alleviated pressure from me, and let them know they had something worthwhile contributing.

Mike Henry  |  14 Feb 2012  |  Reply

I remain amazed (and convicted) at the ease with which I can give myself a pass. Helping everyone make a valuable contribution, enjoy doing it, and know it was appreciated creates a great deal of energy for any organization or family. Thanks for the great comment Tara!

Valencia Ray M.D.  |  14 Feb 2012  |  Reply

Enjoyed your post Mike and I agree that love is a verb and that much of what we ascribe to love is really what “fairy tales” were made of. I also have found that self love/acceptance/compassion has made it much easier for me to have compassion for others so that I can offer constructive support – love – without judging them. I also know that in addition perhaps to laziness, that many times we don’t hold people accountable because we ourselves are afraid of their rejection. It takes real courage to practice “love leadership” – and courage is of the heart. So, as we treat ourselves with respect, compassion and love we are better equipped to have the confidence and courage to support others – whether our attempts are rejected or not. Though, I must add that most people, when they feel your authenticity and sense you are coming from their best interest and they’ve seen you walk the talk, they are much more receptive to being called on their accountability issues. In other words, relationship is key and we are all growing from our relationships with others.

Mike Henry  |  14 Feb 2012  |  Reply

I agree with your perceptive comment. I have learned for me to turn the fear into a curiosity. So I thought they were supposed to do X and they did Z. Now I go and ask, authentically trying to discover why they did whatever they did. That authenticity that you mention is key. Maybe I wasn’t clear? Maybe someone else told them to do Z and they thought it could replace X. Most people don’t fail to meet expectations for any malicious reasons. That’s why it’s easier (at least for me) to ask.

Thanks for the great comment. Mike…

Jon Mertz  |  14 Feb 2012  |  Reply

Great post, Mike! I never thought about love the way you highlighted it, but it makes sense. Following through on tough feedback or reaching out to a team member are both actions that put them ahead of us. It is in these actions we all improve and enhance our capabilities. More importantly, we both a little more about ourselves, which is the ultimate gift. Thank you. Jon

Susan Mazza  |  17 Feb 2012  |  Reply

You make many great points Mike especially that love is a verb!

There seems to be a prevalent belief that holding someone to account is somehow shaming them or doing them harm, perhaps because as you point out it can be painful to have to face where you did not deliver on your promises. .For the person holding someone to account it can be painful too – being on the other end of someones negative emotions/reactions can be hard. Yet when we hold someone accountable for being and doing their best then we strengthen them. it is as you point out an act of love. Iff you are blaming or shaming someone in the name of accountability you are not holding them accountable but rather attacking them. No one wins or grows and harm is done to the people involved and the relationship in those situations.

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