At a recent meeting, the elders of a church were discussing what to do with a pastor of a local congregation. I remember him as a rigid leader who several times sent me letters of disapproval for how we were using the arts in worship.

Hidden immorality in his life had surfaced. Somehow he had been rationalizing an affair over several years with a woman in his church. The elders came to the final conclusion and asked him to leave, and I wondered quietly to myself, “If he were able to lead himself before leading others, his future would be different today.”

We’re good at evaluating others, but unless we can evaluate ourselves by the same standard, we will live inconsistently.

Thomas Watson, former chairman of IBM, said: “The most convincing proof that a person is able to lead others will be expressed by what he does day to day to lead himself.”

We tend to judge others by their actions, but we evaluate ourselves by our intentions. In other words, if we can rationalize our intentions as not necessarily vicious our evil, then we excuse ourselves and feel innocent, regardless of other violations that may have occurred.

The higher we rise in the authority structure, the more we need to seek accountability. We forget that we are fallible and susceptible to misjudgments, selfishness, and insecurity, and since the “eye cannot see the eye,” we need to increase this priority.

Accountability is not something that will be developed automatically. I’m sorry but there is no delivery service for this one. You have to go after it. In Proverbs 1:23, “Wisdom” warns us: “Turn to my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.” True accountability is something we must “turn to.”

Many might think that the extent of accountability is “being willing to explain your actions.” That might be partially true, but most of the time, we do something and hope we never get asked “why!” We would rather take the risk.

Accountability begins much sooner than that.

Your willingness to get advice and ask for input prior to your action is the best indicator of how accountable you are.

It begins with getting advice from others, especially those above you in the line of authority. Leadership is a trust, not a right, and not being accountable early enough causes most of the errors of leaders. The earlier the accountability, the better chances you have at being a great leader. Accountability is an act of humility, not a lack of confidence. It is a sign of those who chase after wisdom.

How accountable are you as a leader?

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