R = A = A

If this equation is out of balance, somebody is frustrated and thinking about quitting.

Responsibility = Accountability = Authority

These three factors are not the same thing, but they must be held at the same level. See if you can recognize which part is out of balance in these short scenarios.


Rhonda never got a job description when she was promoted to supervisor. Along the way, she picked up the general idea of what she should be doing, but it has never been truly clear. When something goes wrong, she knows that fingers will be pointed at her, but the last few times she was criticized for tasks that she had never been asked to do. She held it together when two different managers double-teamed her in front of her group, but on the drive home she alternated between crying and pounding the steering wheel. Rhonda’s leadership equation is out of balance. She has Authority as a supervisor, and she is held Accountable for outcomes, but the scope of her Responsibility is not defined. She is frustrated, and frankly so are the managers who don’t understand why she can’t deliver the results they need.


Bruce, on the other hand, knows exactly what his job is. He cares about his team and regularly goes out of his way to make sure that their morale stays high. In his mind, he is going above and beyond to keep his people engaged and happy. Bruce is held in high esteem by all of his direct reports, who often say he is the best boss they have ever had, but he has a nagging sense that his Division Manager does not really respect him. Sure, his team’s performance is not the highest in the company, but they are a cohesive group with low turnover. Unfortunately, Bruce has only seen the tip of the iceberg. His boss is fed up with what he perceives as mediocrity and lack of intensity and might replace Bruce if he had a good candidate. In many ways, Bruce is a good leader, but his equation is out of whack, too. He has a clear sense of his area of Responsibility and plenty of Authority to carry it out, but his DM has never held him Accountable for results. Unspoken expectations have mounted, and Bruce has no idea how to make his boss happy.


Just six months after her promotion to VP, Vanessa is ready to quit. She worked for eight years after grad school to get here, consistently earning top marks on her performance reviews and landing major clients. But all her success tastes like dust in her mouth now, because the COO second-guesses every decision she makes. Last week she sent a memo to all her team leads about implementing a new initiative they had been working on for the last two months, but this morning when she got in, one of her leads stopped her and asked why his request got bounced back from Purchasing. Vanessa went straight to the COO, who apologized and said, “I know you’ve got this in your budget, but I just think we need to consider a few other vendors before we pull the trigger.” With tight lips and a straight back, Vanessa walked out, left the building, and is sitting in a coffee shop composing her letter of resignation. Her leadership equation is badly skewed: Responsibility and Accountability are there in spades, but she is coming to realize that she has no real Authority to do anything. She wanted to make an impact, to really make a difference in this company, but she has less power now than when she was in the field.


Which of these scenarios have you personally experienced? How did you feel when you were going through them? One of the keys to a high-performance workforce is keeping everyone’s leadership equation in balance. Now that you know, see if you can recognize which part of the equation is off in your own role or in the people who report to you. Sometimes, we all need an outside perspective to help us identify the imbalance and correct it in appropriate ways. hireMAX is your trusted and experienced partner for Long Term Employment Solutions. Call us (817-249-3933) or email for a free phone consultation so you can decide if we might be part of the solution for you.



The following two tabs change content below.
Dr. Shero believes that leadership can be learned and that the best organizations intentionally develop leadership at every level. Leaders have the privilege of influencing other human lives for the better. That's why Phillip cares so much about learning to lead well and helping others do the same.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from hireMAX.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This