Leaders tell on themselves means leaders hold themselves accountable.

What does accountability mean to you? Merriam-Webster dictionary defines accountability as the quality or state of being accountable, especially: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or account for one’s actions.

My definition — I’m willing to tell the truth about my choices and take responsibility for the impact of my actions, whether intended or unintended. Let’s unpack accountability by defining choice and impact.

  • Choice: I select from many possible actions. I decide.
  • Impact: The outcome or consequence of my choice or action.

Shadow, a Jungian psychology term, fits into the conversation too. Within the ManKind Project, we explain the concept of shadow as a belief about myself, negative or positive, that I hide, repress, or deny – emphasis on belief. The choices and actions that arise from shadow are not the shadows. Shadow is the belief about myself that would allow me to choose that action which then produced the impact.

Some beliefs commonly in shadow include I’m not: good enough, strong enough, powerful enough, lovable, worthy, smart enough as well as I’m amazing, beautiful, gifted, talented, smart, and worthy of love and attention.

You might be thinking, a belief about myself that I hide, repress, or deny. Well then, how can I figure out what my shadows are if I hide, repress, or deny them? Great question!

As authentic and bold leaders, we start by looking at the agreements we make and don’t keep. Fortunately, I just happen to have an example from my own life which I can use to demonstrate the process.

When I see that I have broken an agreement with myself or another person, or someone points out that I have not done what I said I would do — instead of becoming defensive, I can use the following questions to learn about myself and share that learning with others. By giving clear and concise answers without telling a story and justifying my choices and behavior, I can start getting at the roots — the beliefs — that drive my actions. Yes, it’s hard.

Here’s an accountability piece from my life.

  1. What was the agreement? I agreed to have some required forms turned in by October 1st.
  2. Did I keep the agreement?No.
  3. What did I choose to do instead of keeping my agreement? Or, what did I make more important? I chose to assume that I’d done it back in August and not verify.
  4. What is the impact of my choice? The impact is that the man responsible for collection had to request it and spend time paying attention to this detail instead of doing other things. The consequence is that he may trust my leadership, and me, less. He didn’t put my name out with the rest of the staff.
  5. What is the shadow that would allow me to make that choice and create the impacts I did?My shadow (one of them!) is, I believe I can get away with anything because the rules don’t apply to me.

The process can end there, or you can extend the learning and behavior change by asking:

Do I want to change? For me, my answer was, “Yes. I don’t want to live from that place because living from a one up, or one down place reinforces my belief that I’m less than or better than.”

Instead of saying, “sorry” you can commit to an act of accountability. Completing the act of accountability, you both demonstrate to yourself that you can follow through on the commitments you make as well as creating the change you want.

In the example from above, I offered to make the man I impacted a cup of coffee on the weekend. I chose that act of accountability because sharing an everyday pleasure is one of the ways I meet men on familiar ground as brothers.

I often hear ‘we need to hold so-and-so accountable.’ As an authentic and bold leader, begin by holding yourself accountable. No shame or blame. Just tell the truth. Own your shadow. Stop saying, “sorry” and doing the same thing over and over again. And change your beliefs and behaviors.

If you are accountable, others will follow both you and your example.

Go Answer the Call