Authority, Responsibility and Accountability – The Building Blocks of Leadership

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It’s not sufficient to declare that your chosen candidate for promotion to supervisor is finally a “leader.” You must provide her or him with three important building blocks. And by the way, if you are the one being asked to take on the additional responsibility of leadership, you should insist on having the same three building blocks:


Authority includes the personnel, money, and materials that go beyond the title supervisor or manager. Your authority consists of the sole determination of how the above assets are utilized or expended conducting your department’s business, section, area of responsibility, or company. Your staff must be sure that you are in charge and your decisions won’t be reversed by your supervisor, within reason, baring anything unlawful or immoral.

If you aren’t given the decision-making authority, don’t take the job. Having the power to complete a job is very satisfying. Remember that your authority also means taking responsibility when things go wrong.

You are given the authority to perform your duties and responsibilities because of your supervisor’s confidence and trust in your abilities.


While an open mind is priceless, it is priceless only when its owner dares to make a final decision that closes the mind for action after the process of viewing all sides of the question has been completed. Failure to make a decision after due consideration of all the facts will quickly brand a man as unfit for a position of responsibility. Not all of your decisions will be correct. None of us is perfect. But if you get into the habit of making decisions, the experience will develop your judgment to a point where more and more of your choices will be right.

This is the lonely part of leadership; every decision you make, you make alone. While you want to have input from staff members and others as may be necessary, you will evaluate all the data and advice and ultimately decide alone. Leaders are responsible for making the hard decisions no one else wants to make or can make. Once you implement your decision, everyone suddenly knows the correct answer. You have now opened yourself to criticism from every possible direction. You may even begin to second guess yourself-don’t. The decision you made was based on available information and in the best interests of the organization.

You always have the option of adjusting the decision as its consequences develop. As a leader, you make decisions knowing that they may be wrong, but you take that risk where others won’t. You and you alone have the responsibility for making the decision. So make your decision with confidence and above all, trust yourself.


Accountability means you own it. The military teaches this concept better than any organization I know. It works like this. You are assigned a task; there are two possible outcomes, you succeed or fail. Suppose you succeed, congratulations, and move on. If you fail, there is no excuse for failing; you didn’t get it done. This short conversation sounds like this; Yes, Sir, No, Sir, and No Excuse, Sir. The young leader learns very quickly that he or she is accountable for everything his or her unit does or fails to do.

Your reputation as a leader will be decided by how accountable you are in your daily business practices. By holding yourself liable for all your actions and those of your office, you will be way ahead of your peers. It is an easy way to get noticed in a certain way.

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