- These 3 Words Are Not Interchangeable.
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August 3, 2022

Authority. Responsibility. Accountability.
When it comes to Leadership, those three words are not interchangeable. They are fundamentally different, and our inability to recognize this creates miscommunications and frustration.

Accountable simply means "ability to count," to take a tally or track. An accountable person knows where something stands. For instance, a Sales Director must be accountable for their team's outreach efforts. They take inventory. Yet, they may or may not be responsible for making the calls or have the authority to alter their role and actions.

Responsible is broken down to "the ability to respond," this person responds to the issue or challenge. The Sales Director has Business Development Reps (BDR) responsible for making the daily and weekly calls of which the Sales Director is accountable.

Authority is "the right to give orders." In the above example, the BDR has no authority to alter what they've been given to do. The Sales Director has the authority to alter activities or tactics when it comes to business development.

Authority, responsibility, and accountability are necessary when delegating work to a team. In a team environment where trust is high, it's common to see team members entrusted with all three. Trust enables delegation. When this happens, team members have agency, or the power to fully own their actions, to take charge of executing their power to achieve the desired outcome.

The next time you delegate, ask yourself if you are delegating all three attributes or if you need to hold one or two back, and why? Be clear on your communications and what you trust others to do on your behalf. 

author avatar
George Morris
I use my 20+ years of entrepreneurial experience and training to coach businesses on scaling up rapidly using Verne Harnish's Scaling Up framework. By doing so, my clients are more efficient and profitable, giving them the ability to make bigger impacts in the world. I deeply believe entrepreneurs are the best equipped to be the vehicle for meaningful change, and in the decade ahead, we'll see a substantial shift in how business is done. We'll move to a model where company purpose, impact, curiosity, and team health will be differentiators in overall business success. As Simon Sinek has pointed out, the finite games are the legacy of the past; we're moving to an infinite game.