Commentary: Leading through accountability

This month, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) is celebrating the commitment to accountability shared by many of our member colleges.

I commend those of you who measure that accountability through the metrics used in the Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA). These metrics better represent the community college student and serve to assist with telling the student success and completion stories that you know so well. Accountability is more than a buzzword; it’s a way to lead and set the example for the leaders within your college.

Accountability is this context, is different than responsibility. Responsibilities are listed in your job description. Accountability is the acceptance of consequences for decisions and actions. Good or bad, it is incumbent on you as a leader to build a framework for college activities based upon accountability.

Leading by example will allow your team work within that framework and feel free to answer for the decisions and processes that they employ to reach their goals. This builds a trust and transparency that will strengthen the team and, ultimately, the programs and services that help you to serve students.

Activating your VFA participation is easy. Here’s how.

An accountable leader does not point fingers or become defensive when things don’t go as planned. Accountable leaders use information — good or bad — as opportunities to succeed.

We all know that learning does not happen when things go well, it happens when things do not go as planned or as expected. That learning is a true opportunity to fix issues and when done within the framework of accountability, they can lead to a more accurate understanding of the organization and its processes. Accountability demands that you question outcomes and work with your team to ensure that you are doing the very best possible to facilitate success.

Self-reflection is a key component to being an accountable leader. Understanding your own leadership style and how it impacts the organization isn’t always easy. But, it is necessary if you are looking to build a team that is focused on reaching performance goals.

This article comes from the current issue of AACC’s Community College Journal. Read it online today.

It also sets the tone for your leadership team to do the same and helps to create a safe team space where challenges can be discussed and solutions can be strategically conceived. The team aspect is also important and gathering input from others is a great way to open the discussion and truly seek the best possible answer for your college and your students.

One of the best outcomes of developing as an accountable leader is the impact it may have on the climate of the organization. Accountability creates a trust and respect amongst the staff that you as a leader will say and do what you say you are going to do. It levels the playing field if all team members are held accountable and creates a sense of purpose.

Being accountable to performance or programmatic goals allows employees to truly engage in the mission and goals of the college and continuously strive toward the betterment of the organization.

About the Author

Walter G. Bumphus
is president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges.