— Grace and accountability can coexist

Lots of you have asked why I say “Grace and accountability can coexist” so frequently, particularly since (a) I tend to be exceedingly direct in my approach,  (b) I have a blog named “The Brazen Leader,” and (c) I coach and speak extensively on accountability cultures and what that means.

Lemme ‘splain.

No, there’s too much, let me sum up:

  1. Yes, I am usually direct in my speaking and coaching style. There’s good reason for that, as most of my clients are C-level, and trying to make a point to them while dancing around the yard is likely to result in eye-rolling, yawning and general disgust. Think really, really, short attention spans.

So, I go straight to the point first, then clean it up if I need to. Spoiler alert – seldom do I need to. Direct people generally need to hear things in a direct fashion. That I enjoy it is just icing on my cake.

  1. It’s true, my blog is named The Brazen Leader (you do read my blog, right? Subscribe and follow now. Do it. See “direct in style” mentioned above). But being brazen doesn’t mean being an asshole.

[brey-zuh n]

1. bold and without shame.
2. shameless.

In today’s day of milquetoast and timidity, this definition suits me just fine, and should rally all leadership to remember that leadership is a responsibility, an obligation, and a noble calling; that those who follow us don’t need a buddy, commiserator or simpatico.

They didn’t show up looking for a friend—they need us to lead. And that means doing so outwardly… decisively… boldly.

Sure, we should be understanding, and empathy is a hallmark of a successful leader. But being in front means sometimes you get in people’s face. Sometimes tough-love is the best love. And sometimes—just sometimes—it means the loneliness that comes from making the hard calls. The decisions that are best for people and organizations, even if not immediately popular.

It means being bold, and without any shame whatsoever.

It means being Brazen.

Note, I never said be a jerk or an asshole. Be Brazen.

  1. Finally, this whole bit about how holding others (and ourselves) accountable is mean-spirited or somehow offensive needs to go the way of the dodo bird. It just ain’t so. At least, it doesn’t have to be so.

This is the crux of the matter. Holding ourselves accountable isn’t narcissistic, it’s just pulling our weight. Expecting accountability from others isn’t aggressive or forward, it’s compassionate, caring and kind. It’s knowing that we all do better when we expect the best from everyone.

As mentioned above, demonstrable empathy is a true example of successful leadership.

Empathy, at its core, is putting yourself in someone else’s position and feeling what they must be feeling; taking it further, empathy includes caring for other people and having a real desire to help them. And one of the best ways to pull that off in leadership is to be clear with expectations, vicious about providing resources and support, then creating the environment where we hold each other accountable for achieving what we set out to do.

Our ultimate goal is to help each other – to steal from Army recruiting – Be all we can be. Be the best we can be.

For a leader, it means bringing kindness, empathy, and respect; It means using those as levers to help others succeed, to grow and improve.

Grace means courteous good will. Sometimes even unmerited assistance.

Accountability means personal ownership of a specific expectation or result.

Grace and accountability can coexist.

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