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The 5 best accountability quotes for the workplace

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If there’s one leadership attribute that makes a real difference to a company, it’s accountability. (There’s a reason there are so many accountability quotes out there. Leaders talk about it often because they know it drives positive results!)

Accountable individuals take responsibility for their actions and behaviors. They communicate changes, keep others in the loop, set clear expectations, and learn from failure. Because they can be counted on, others trust them—and this helps build healthy team dynamics. Success is a result of great teamwork.

It’s clear that personal accountability is important. But according to the 2019 CEO Benchmarking Report, many business leaders struggle to hold their people accountable. In fact, 18% of the CEOs surveyed said holding employees accountable was their biggest weakness. 

accountability chart

Your ability to both be accountable and help others be accountable determines the success you’ll have.

Accountability quotes that show the power of taking responsibility for your actions

Are you hoping to make accountability part of your company culture? It starts by communicating the expectation that accountability is expected. Here are five accountability quotes you can share with others to show them how important it is to take responsibility for their daily actions.

1. “Great companies have high cultures of accountability, it comes with this culture of criticism I was talking about before, and I think our culture is strong on that.” – Steve Ballmer

As a prominent businessman and investor, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer knows a thing or two about how to drive performance. Criticism is a word that some leaders tend to shy away from. However, criticism doesn’t have to be negative. Constructive criticism is a form of feedback, and it’s essential for promoting accountability in your organization. 

Have you read our 2019 People Management Report? In it, 17% of employees said their manager lacks the skills needed to deliver feedback effectively. Help your managers learn to deliver constructive feedback. It’s a key step on the journey to developing a culture of accountability. 

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2.  “The best kind of accountability on a team is peer-to-peer. Peer pressure is more efficient and effective than going to the leader, anonymously complaining, and having them stop what they are doing to intervene.” –  Patrick Lencioni.

This quote is from the author of “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.” It reminds us that it’s not just management who can hold people accountable. 

Make accountability part of your corporate culture. Teach team members that they can—and should—hold each other accountable for performance. It all starts with having trust on teams. This allows teammates to conflict in a healthy way. 

At PI, we have believe in the concept of “leaders at every level.” All employees are expected to exhibit leadership qualities, regardless of role or title. We use this leadership rubric to help employees develop their overall leadership capacity. As you can see, “results and accountability” is one of our leadership principles. 

3. “When people feel accountable and included, it is more fun.” – Alan Mulally

Mulally is an aerospace engineer and former President and Chief Executive Officer of the Ford Motor Company. Here he introduces the idea that accountability can be fun. It’s not an adjective we usually associate with accountability, but there’s a lot of truth to the idea. 

When people aren’t accountable, they’re less invested in their work. And being invested in your work actually makes work more enjoyable! You have a sense of ownership in the final result.

Your employees want to be engaged and involved. When you hold them accountable for their successes and their failures, it helps them feel invested in the business. 

4. “Open collaboration encourages greater accountability, which in turn fosters trust.” – Ron Garan

The word accountability sometimes conjures up images of micromanagers and rigid performance measures. However, this quote from astronaut Ron Garan is an important reminder that accountability and collaboration go hand-in-hand. 

Collaboration encourages knowledge sharing between employees and departments. This can lead to greater innovation. It also surfaces potential problems so they can be resolved before they even occur. 

Looking to improve collaboration in your organization? Companies that use assessments to improve team collaboration have 33% higher engagement rates

Accountability quotes to build accountability

5. “Leaders inspire accountability through their ability to accept responsibility before they place blame.”― Courtney Lynch

This quote is from the author of “Spark: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success.” It reminds us to avoid looking for someone or something to blame. 

At the core of accountability is the ability to accept and admit when you’ve made a mistake. Taking responsibility in this way demonstrates to your employees that it’s OK to get it wrong occasionally. Failure can be a useful learning tool, and a healthy approach to handling failure can guide you toward greater success and leadership capacity.

When you take responsibility instead of looking for a place to lay the blame, you inspire confidence in your leadership abilities. You also as well inspire your employees to hold themselves more accountable! 

Apply these accountability quotes to your workplace.

Harnessing the power of accountability in the workplace means understanding exactly what we mean when we talk about accountability. All too often we associate accountability with negative consequences and punishments. But it’s actually a great tool for positively empowering your employees. 

Share these quotes with your workforce to demonstrate that accountability is something to celebrate and encourage.  


Erin is a PI alum and former PI content marketing director. Her claim to fame? She's the only Erin Balsa on LinkedIn.

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