Episode #8: Dysfunction of Accountability

There is a disturbing trend in organizations with leaders letting employees off the hook when they fail to meet their commitments on time, refuse to do aspects of their jobs, or when they simply don’t show up for meetings as requested. The cold hard truth is that many leaders have abdicated their responsibility for holding employees accountable. And instead, these leaders’ efforts are directed towards trying to embody their idea of a “great leader” – one that empowers and supports employees by letting them figure things out for themselves… They don’t see their abdication of responsibility for what it is: a big problem. A problem that sets the stage for all kinds of bad behavior, power struggles, misalignment and reduced productivity. Welcome to the Dysfunction of Accountability.

In today’s episode, Anne & Heather explore the Dysfunction of Accountability and share a real client story that illustrates just how common it is to find this type of leadership behavior in organizations today. They’ll also share some practical tips that you can use if the Dysfunction of Accountability is causing the leaders in your organization to abdicate their leadership responsibilities.

If you want to know more about Anne & Heather’s work with dismantling dysfunctions in organizations and leadership behavior at Caliber Leadership Systems, check out:




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Are you dealing with an organizational dysfunction you need help with? Or do you have a story you would like to share on our show? Contact us at [email protected]



  • [01:28] Episode introduction and overview 
  • [02:45] What is the Dysfunction of Accountability? 
  • [20:30] Our client story experiencing the Dysfunction of Accountability 
  • [23:05] Root causes we identified that contributed to the dysfunction 
  • [26:40] Our approach to helping the client overcome the dysfunction 
  • [32:54] Outcomes and successes for our client 
  • [34:33] Episode gem & practical takeaway 
  • [36:45] Episode wrap up



  • The Dysfunction of Accountability is caused by adaptative permissive leadership behavior. It develops when leaders’ fears of creating upset in their employees gets them to become more permissive and less directive in their approach to leading others. 
  • A major contributor to the Dysfunction of Accountability is the fixed mindset that leaders have around accountability. This fixed mindset causes beliefs such as, “feedback is criticism, and it’s a personal attack that employees won’t like”, “I can’t afford to demotivate them by giving them feedback or expectations”, “holding employees accountable will make me a micromanager”. These beliefs cause leaders to abdicate their responsibility for ensuring effective communication with their employees. 
  • Permissive leadership behavior is just a way that leaders compensate for a lack of skill development, and a fear of creating emotional conflict and people. It’s adaptive, and leaders are often unconscious as to how they’re getting in the way of their employees’ success by not asserting authority and holding employees accountable to expectations. 
  • With leadership training and development, long-standing self-protective patterns of behavior can be changed, and new productive responses and patterns can be put in their place. Leadership skills, performance systems, and authority on personal, peer and organizational levels are the essential ingredients needed. 
  • When dealing with the Dysfunction of Accountability, employee success depends on leaders remembering that they’re responsible for creating a roadmap by defining expectations, course correcting and holding employees accountable for staying the course.



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