Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Is there a difference between responsibility and accountability?

My friend and colleague Kwai Yu, the founder and CEO of Leaders Cafe, asked an interesting question in the Leaders Cafe group on LinkedIn recently: "I am not responsible for 53,000 employees" - so says Rupert Murdoch. What would you have said in his position?

You can read the very interesting Yeses, No’s and Maybe’s here.

Here is what I added to the discussion:

I imagine that Murdoch is far removed from the day to day actions of his people (53000 employees). There are probably 1000s he hasn’t even met. Is there a failure of management in the company. Absolutely in my view.

I suspect there are policies, procedures practices, systems etc, the stuff of management, that if followed mean what happened shouldn’t have, and obviously somewhere along the line several people broke the rules which means several people have failed as managers and probably as leaders as well.

The GFC, BP are more examples of poor management. It is ironic that the poorest managers on the planet, politicians, are finger pointing and yet not doing management which is to change what's normal with policies, procedures and practices etc.

As to the big question circulating the globe, is Murdoch responsible? I don't think so. He is only responsible if he knew what was going on and did nothing about it. This we will probably never know.

As another one of my colleagues Terry Paulson said in the discussion "I do not think he knew. If he did, he should be held accountable."

There is a big, big difference between responsibility and accountability. In the end of this Murdoch will be accountable. An interesting question is: Will he be held to account by others or will he hold himself and the people who failed their responsibility to account?

What say you? Is there a difference between responsibility and accountability and if so what are the differences?

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Author of Changing What’s Normal

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