The Difference Between Responsibility and Accountability

by | Mar 28, 2023 | Podcast

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In this week’s episode of Reflect Forward, we talk about the difference between responsibility and accountability. Every inflection point in my life happened when I decided to take full responsibility for my situation. When you take responsibility, you empower yourself to improve your life.

Responsibility and accountability are terms often used interchangeably, but they’re not quite the same. While they’re both important for success in life and work, understanding their differences can help you navigate situations more clearly and confidently.

Let’s start with responsibility. When we talk about responsibility, we’re talking about what we’re expected to do or our obligations to ourselves and others. It’s about fulfilling our duties and being reliable. When we take on responsibility, we promise ourselves or others that we’ll follow through.

Sometimes people feel burdened by responsibility. But being responsible can be empowering. It’s about choosing to choose. And when you take full responsibility for everything that happens in your life, you can change your situation, rectify a mistake, grow and learn, and live a more fulfilling life.

For example, I am responsible for stewarding my company and its employees. Rather than feeling obligated or burdened, I choose to embrace this responsibility wholeheartedly. No matter what happens, good or bad, I am responsible, and being responsible drives my decision-making and attitude. And this gives me the power to create my future, impact my company, and fix mistakes.

Now let’s talk about accountability. Accountability is about ownership and consequences and how your decisions impact others. When we’re accountable, we take responsibility for our actions’ outcomes and acknowledge that we have a role in the results, whether positive or negative.

Here is an example of responsibility and accountability: let’s say you’re working on a team project at your job. You have a specific task to complete, and you’re accountable for ensuring it gets done on time and to the best of your ability. If you don’t fulfill this accountability, the project might suffer, and your team members might have to pick up the slack.

So, responsibility is embracing your obligations, commitments, choices, and attitude, while accountability is about owning the outcomes of our actions and their impact on others.

During the episode, I share a few more examples to explain the difference and why responsibility is SO important in life and leadership. Why? Because taking ownership of your actions and being accountable for your mistakes can help you grow and improve as an employee, ultimately leading to greater success in your career.

Here is a link to the book I discuss in the episode, The Power of Owning Up.

Question of the Week

This week’s question comes from a fellow YPOer who asked me, “how do you do with your anxiety?”

While everyone is different, I share my tips, including introspection, exercise, deep breathing and time.


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1 Comment

  1. Dear Ms. Siggins:

    Thank you very much for your great article on Responsibility and Accountability.

    Writing these comments because, firstly, I completely agree with the whole article contents and fortunately I adhere and apply most of its contents in my personal and professional life. Nevertheless, I found out that relating to responsibility and accountability and under their requirements and obligations, a challenging and a big conflict arise between PERFORMANCE and CONFORMANCE in fulfilling the requirements and obligations of both the responsibility and accountability. And instead, as you wrote, you end up by a greater success and a greater outcome you end up with a disastrous failure on both the personal level and professional level and because you are or were the WEAKEST LINK in environment or the system you cannot do anything about it and even if you do and try, you end up with more losses and more sad consequences on!

    My question to you is: Under such conditions, what can you do? And whom do you blame? and where does the conflict between Performance and conformance fits in the equation balance of responsibility and accountability? specially to avoid more losses and more challenges! (Leave it to your imagination!), the only way is to suffer personally and professionally and try to fake, and get on with, living in order to survive!

    Thank you again for your article and for keeping me on your mailing list and I look forward to more articles and more knowledge and more learning.

    My name is: Rabih Zayed. My email is:

    Thank you and best regards,