Authority vs Accountability: 4 Ways to Make Employees Commit |

Project Management

Authority vs Accountability: 4 Ways to Make Employees Commit

Authority vs Accountability: 4 Ways to Make Employees Commit

As a manager, one of the most common communication problems you’re likely to have is accountability vs authority. These two terms are often poorly understood and confused, so it’s important to look at them in detail as they are the key to ensuring employee commitment.


The word “accountability “ can be split into two parts:

  • Account  – a report or description of an event or experience
  • Ability – possession of the means or skill to do something

In other words, accountability means the ability to report on your experiences (or events). Accountability for something should be assigned to one individual (a certain task, service, etc). If you decide to assign more than one person accountable for the task, it may result in nobody keeping count.

The most common misunderstanding that comes from the term “accountability” is that the person who is accountable is the one to blame if something goes wrong. But in reality, if people are assigned accountability, it doesn’t mean they should know and do everything. Their job is to “scream” when something goes wrong.


Authority is “the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.” And it’s usually associated with people at the top – CEOs, shareholders, the board of directors, etc. Authority is the backbone of organisational framework. It indicates the right and the power to make decisions, give orders, instructions, and no organisation can function without it. Authority is delegated from above and must be accepted from below.

However, some organisations fail to clearly indicate who has/doesn’t have authority which can make taking decisions quite difficult. And if you don’t have authority, how would you hold people accountable?

The truth is accountability can’t be demanded or forced. And though many leaders try to rely on authority to make people accountable, but true accountability is self-imposed, no one can do it for you.

4 ways to establish accountability and make team members commit

#1. Mind the difference between accountability and commitment

Ask team members “On a scale of 1 to 10 how committed are you to ….?” If the number is less than 7, failure is about commitment, not accountability.

#2. Share the big picture and goals as well as the ways to achieve them

Accountability requires purpose. When people see the purpose and take ownership of the work, they are more committed to it, more motivated, more engaged.

#3. Even though you have authority, you can’t push people into accountability

Remember that pushing creates resistance.

#4. Create passion in the workplace and make accountability a positive experience

People often view accountability as something negative. Explain to team members that taking accountability is a chance to improve their own skills and bring business towards success and prosperity.

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