Chery Gegelman is the president of Giana Consulting, an organizational development company that seeks to be a source of help, light and understanding so those they serve can more effectively accomplish their mission.

Several years ago, a friend of mine shared his business plan with me. In the middle of reviewing the plan, two statements jumped off the screen:

  1. To be consistent, fair and explainable.
  2. To engage with compassion and accountability.

The first statement, “To be consistent, fair and explainable,” resonated loudly as it simply and clearly stated who I hope to be.

The second statement, “To engage with compassion and accountability,” resonated with even more volume, but required more discussion and more thought. Years later, this concept still resonates at a very high level. What follows are the things I’ve come to understand:

  • As humans, we will come in contact with those we immediately relate to and enjoy.
  • There will be others we don’t understand well.
  • And others that are prickly, annoying or even repulsive to us.

As leaders, our job is to work with beautiful and flawed humans from all three groups. People from each of these groups will make great and not-so-great contributions. Their performances will span a spectrum. And so will ours.

As leaders, it is often tempting to do what is easy for ourselves: To offer compassion to those we enjoy and to be focused only on accountability when we deal with people we don’t relate to.

But simply doing what’s easy or natural has consequences:

  • If we bring compassion without accountability, our actions encourage anarchy throughout our organizations.
  • If we bring accountability without compassion, our actions offer no understanding or grace for the flawed humans that we are.
  • And when we swing back and forth offering one or the other depending on our individual relationships with people, we are not consistent, fair or explainable.

It is only when we bring a balance of both compassion and accountability to all of our relationships that we breathe life and credibility into our hearts, our homes, our organizations and our communities.

As a leader, I can think of times I’ve been so compassionate that I’ve been almost complacent about issues I should have addressed sooner, and other times I’ve been so focused on accountability that I did not seek first to understand why something was or was not occurring.

A few months ago, I shared this concept with a friend, who in turn had an opportunity to intentionally bring compassion and accountability to a tough conversation with a service provider that was not meeting the needs of her cognitively challenged child. She left that meeting feeling empowered and peaceful.

Compassionate Accountability:

  • Two OPPOSITES that when they are linked become a vision for anyone seeking to lead at a higher level.
  • Two ACTIONS that when balanced help us seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly.

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A recent article in Michael Hyatt’s newsletter by Lisa Whittle provides an excellent example of how to apply the concept of compassionate/accountability: 5 Truths To Remember When Your Leader Falls.

The concepts of striving to be consistent, fair and explainable and balancing compassionate/accountability are from Bev and Doug Sprague.

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7 Responses to “Why leaders need to practice compassionate accountability”

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  2. Susan Mazza says:

    I really love this distinction of "compassionate accountability". I think the reason the word accountability makes people so uncomfortable and often feeling defensive is because accountability has been approached like it's a club beating people over the head rather than exercised as the art of creating mutually honoring relationships.

    • Susan, I could not agree more. Accountability by itself sounds uncomfortable and severe and makes me squirm. Mixed with compassion it generates an entirely different vision and emotion. Now it becomes a strong foundation and supportive structure that empowers people and organizations to operate at their best.

      Thank you for your comment!

  3. Page Cole says:

    Chery,
    Great article… I think we do people a terrible injustice when we don't provide accountability, and we do ourselves a terrible injustice when we fail to do it with compassion. We shortchange ourselves by leading with less dignity, grace and compassion than we are capable of. Great reminder for us as leaders! You are wonderful!

  4. Shawn Murphy says:

    Chery,
    I must echo Susan's comment. Great connecting compassion to accountability and what happens when they are synced and when they are not.

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