Teach & Serve III, No. 17 – Accountable to be Accountable

Teach & Serve III, No. 17

Accountable to be Accountable

November 29, 2017

When things go wrong, when they do not go as planned, when failure happens and when hands are thrown up all around, a leader steps forward and steps up. A leader holds herself accountable. A leader accepts responsibility.

Schools are complex places and, when things do go wrong, typically the reasons are myriad. Often many hands have played a part in an initiative that did not land well or a program that failed. Committees run off course and team-planned curricular designing gets derailed. Perhaps resources were lacking, or energy. Perhaps the plan was simply too ambitious. Perhaps someone did not pull his weight. There is little that can be counted upon in the day-to-day management and leadership of a school. One thing that can be counted upon is that the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men (an’ women!) gang aft agley.

When things go wrong, when they do not go as planned, when failure happens and when hands are thrown up all around, a leader steps forward and steps up. A leader holds herself accountable. A leader accepts responsibility.

This is a significant key to excellent leadership. The first move of the leader – be she a classroom teacher or an administrator – is to acknowledge the failure and to accept responsibility for it. Given the likely number of shoes that dropped in the context of any missed opportunity or fiasco, it would be possible for the leader to engage in (or join in) finger pointing. “It was not me. It was the committee. It was the too aggressive timeline. It was a lack of follow through.”

The reality is that all of that may be true. The committee may have dropped the ball. The timeline may have been overly optimistic. The follow through may have been lacking. But a leader does not, in the first instance, respond to failure by denying responsibility. A leader desires accountability.

There is time following failure to assess. There is time to identify problems and to fix them and to try again. There is time to analyze what went wrong to put things right. There is time.

Immediately following a failure is not that time. Immediately following a failure is time for the leader to say: “this is on me.”

A leader is accountable to be accountable.

Anything less is weak, can damage morale and can hinder teamwork.