Accountability and self-knowledge are key to strong leadership

Feb. 10, 2021
Thomas Wilk says follow this advice and good leadership must follow.

Welcome to our leadership issue! It’s become something of a February tradition on Plant Services for our contributors to take a deeper dive into this topic, and offer some insights you can use to be a better leader throughout the year.

From the Editor

This article is part of our monthly From the Editor column. Read more from Thomas Wilk.

Leadership is a topic that’s fascinated me for a long time. It’s one of the most challenging and demanding soft skills to develop, and yet it’s also a quality in people that is often treated as innate rather than as something that can be learned and honed over time.

It reminds me of several jobs ago, when a coworker and I would try to boil down the essence of good leadership into as few phrases as possible. What are the things that a person can do that, when done consistently, earn that person a measure of leadership power? Over time we agreed on the following three: (1) Be on time. (2) Pay your way. (3) Do what you say you’re going to do.

Looking back with several years of hindsight, we might as well have just said: accountability, accountability, accountability. In good leaders, this attitude becomes a reflex over time, and sets the stage for success and productivity; in poor leaders, well, the absence of accountability leads to finger-pointing and a lack of team morale.

In this month’s installment of Human Capital, Tom Moriarty takes a deep dive into how to instill a culture of accountability: “Every time I observe an organization with this problem (i.e., people not carrying out directions), I know that the cause is not what people are being asked to do, or the people being asked to follow directions. The main cause of the problem is a lack of accountability. Accountability to communicate what needs to be done. Accountability to provide what people need in order to get it done.”

I also wanted to call attention to one of our bloggers, Bob Argyle, who writes our online Lean 4.0 blog. His thoughts on leadership are featured in this issue: “Instead of management taking the objective and coming up with the plan, management needs to give the objective to the team and allow them to be a part of creating the solution. Easier said than done, right? Often times, yes, but still crucial.”

However, it is our cover story that does the heavy lifting on the most critical aspect of good leadership: self-knowledge. Joe Anderson is a long-time contributor to Plant Services, and in this month’s cover story he shares wisdom on leadership success that he’s earned throughout his career.

Where does leadership start? Joe says it all starts by look in the mirror and knowing yourself through and through: “Until you can learn to lead yourself, and gain those competencies and confidence necessary, you really cannot lead others, not effectively and not efficiently. We do it all the time just through promotion. And we think because we have 20 people that report to us, we are a leader, but that doesn’t make you good.”

When you look in the mirror, do you know a leader when you see one?

About the Author

Thomas Wilk | editor in chief

Thomas Wilk joined Plant Services as editor in chief in 2014. Previously, Wilk was content strategist / mobile media manager at Panduit. Prior to Panduit, Tom was lead editor for Battelle Memorial Institute's Environmental Restoration team, and taught business and technical writing at Ohio State University for eight years. Tom holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MA from Ohio State University

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