Culpability vs. Accountability

"What has character got to do with profits?" - "The nice guy never comes first" - "Business ethics is an oxymoron." These are some of the comments I used to get when I started my consulting work about twenty years ago. Not anymore. Now there is a growing school of thought that recognizes the centrality of character in leadership and is aligned with many of the ideas in Lead by Greatness. I make references to some of these outstanding thinkers and business leaders in the book but there are many others I am discovering every day and refer to them in my blogs. One such person is Ben Dattner.

In his book The Blame Game, Ben highlights how dysfunctional cultures of blame are. He urges readers to become more mindful of misplaced blame and more conscious about giving appropriate credit to others. In Lead by Greatness I have a section that distinguishes cultures of accountability (taking blame and giving credit) from cultures of culpability, (assigning blame and taking credit). These two cultures develop in organizations depending on the "operating system" in which a leader functions: When we function in our defensive, instinctual operating systems, we project our own insecurity by instilling fear in others. We seek others on whom to pin the blame. When we function in our heroic operating systems, we draw on our spiritual energy. We intuitively know that others cannot damage our spiritual energy and so we feel secure about it.

With a sense of security in the permanence of our spiritual energy we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, take blame, apologize, repair, and give others the credit they deserve. Great leaders are not just competent managers, they are great human beings and secure individuals in their own personal lives. They are able to be vulnerable in life, love and work. When they lead, they lead from the front protecting those who place their trust in them . They inspire people to be accountable rather than hold them accountable. This is why vulnerability is such a key character trait of Lead by Greatness.

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