The Difficult Trap of Accountability

It’s a fact: our leaders are also human.  We sometimes tend to forget or reject the simple truth that the ones deciding on important factors of people’s life (in politics or business) have always been and will always be subject to anything that is human.  Whether it’s emotions, biases, or mistakes – our leaders have them all.

We would like to believe that since they are at the top – in governments or companies – they should be better than us.  They surely must be more intelligent, decisive, and mistake-free.  They must be above general standards and protected from common traits like being subjective, prone to errors, and many times less than perfect.

By stating this simple and demonstrated fact I do not imply that they should remain at the commoners’ level and ignore the obligation of attempting and succeeding to better themselves.  On the contrary our expectations should remain high since by voting or joining a company we have ‘delegated’ to them a significant part of the decisions which will affect us, their fellow countrymen or employees.

And yet I do not recall witnessing a leader apologizing to others about a mistake they’ve made.  Even if any post-factum review pointed directly to their personal sub-optimal performance (to put it mildly) the only justification that was ever used refers to ‘other factors’.  Anything and anybody could be the reason for their debacle, but not the leaders themselves.  These ‘factors’ may seem to serve as a convenient way to explain and even excuse anything that goes wrong.  But then where is the value and benefits added by leaders to us –as an expected return from the authority we’ve granted them?

The probable cause for such carefree behavior could be the leaders’ need to be perceived as flawless and in full control – otherwise their authority and further chances to occupy their seats of power would be seriously jeopardized.  From a psychological perspective this could be interpreted as an obvious uneasiness to face the public opinion or uncertainty with regards to one’s own performance.  It is human to err but the leaders are expected to overcome their fears and step up to the podium acknowledging their personal contribution to failure.

While ignoring the mistake or blaming it on anonymous or uncontrollable reasons may look like an easy way out of a mess the fact is that the audience will never fully forget the leaders’ accountability or its lack thereof.  If we teach our children to apologize for any misbehavior and attempt to fix the problem while hoping that they would not repeat the mistake or even improve their act, why would our mature leaders believe that by ignoring their responsibility the wrong would just evaporate into thin air?  As mistakes will continue to be made I personally would rather have my leaders say they’re sorry for their own errors and then hopefully act as if they’ve learned from it by improving their failed past performance.

Would you agree?