Accountability has been the catch cry for a lot of organisations of late but not too many truly implement accountability. What we do get is a form of responsibility instead. Many today get confused and don’t know, or want to know, the difference between responsibility and accountability.

Responsibility is the ‘ability to respond’. Simple really. For you to do the job, you are assigned, you simply need an ability to do it. Whether you do it well, or not, is another matter.

Accountability is the ‘ability to be brought to a count’. In other words, your work is checked and verified that it has been completed well, accurately and in accordance to the goal that was set.

An example is when you have to count some money. Responsibility says, “Yes, I have the ability to count the money and have done so.” Accountability is when the boss says, “Ok, so let’s do a count and check that we get the same balance.” An audit if you will. At that point, you became accountable.

So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.” Then the astrologers answered the king, “May the king live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.” The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble. But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.”
Daniel 2:2-6

Here is a good example of magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers who were happy to be responsible for telling the king his dream. The king however makes it clear that they will be held to account for their interpretation.

It is easy to have ‘responsibility’ but it is much harder to be held ‘accountable’.

When working, do you go about your responsibilities with the view of being held accountable? Would your work hold up to the scrutiny of an audit? What about the hours you spend at the workplace. Do you work each hour well? What if every minute of your day was asked to be accounted for…would you hold up under that accountability?

You could ask this question as an employee or employer or even of your marriage, your ministry or volunteer responsibilities. How about your role as a father or mother, child, teenager, young adult, or senior citizen? …would you hold up under that accountability?

How about your responsibility to God… you do know that you will be held accountable for what you have done here on earth when you stand before the Judgement Seat in Heaven? Jesus said:

“As for those who hear my words but do not keep them, I do not judge them. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for those who reject me and do not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.”
John 12:47,48

Are you, in everything you do, prepared to be held accountable?

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3 Comments

  1. are you kidding me? "It is easy to have 'responsibility' but it is much harder to be held 'accountable'"This is probably the worst statement i've heard in a while! We are turning into a society of Accountants.Responsibility is a superset to accountability. "Responsibility is the 'ability to respond'. Simple really."This is so far away from the actual defination of responsibility – a duty, obligation, or burden. A burden, is easy to be accountable to a measurable system, its a Burden to be responsible. This article seriously is a joke. Listen to the lecture by Janice Stein on the ethics of responsibility and accountability and get some sense before writing such ####.-a "RESPONSIBLE" reader

  2. Thank you 'a "RESPONSIBLE" reader' for your comments.My definition of responsibility is tongue in cheek, as was my definition for accountability. We could discuss the finer aspects of these two words… but, you miss the point of what I was trying to say in the first place.Most people don't understand 'responsibility' in the true sense of the word… and as you have rightly pointed out…but only realise the 'burden' once held accountable.Wouldn't it be good if each, as you obviously do, respected the concept of responsibility prior to being held to account?

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