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Leadership Forum: The recipe for results

April 18, 2022
By Matt Pegg

Starting my day with a cup of good coffee, prepared the way I enjoy it, has me off to a good start. But have you ever taken the first sip of your coffee, with great anticipation, only to realize immediately that something isn’t right? Perhaps there is way too much sugar or no sugar at all, or what should be your piping hot black coffee is loaded with cream instead? Unfortunately, when the mix of ingredients aren’t correct, the desired result is missed.

 The same is true for leadership results. Unless the required ingredients are in place, the desired results won’t be achieved. The recipe for leadership results includes authority, responsibility and accountability.

The first ingredient in the delivery of results is the correct amount of authority necessary to make the decisions, direct the work and move to action in a timely manner. Assigning work too far up the chain of command creates a collision between strategy, tactics and task, quickly grinding efficiency to a halt. Likewise, assigning work too far down the chain of command, where the person responsible for the outcome lacks the authority to actually deliver, requires that nearly every decision they encounter having to be escalated for approval. In order to succeed, leaders must possess the correct amount of authority to make decisions and deliver results in an efficient and effective manner.

Responsibility, the second ingredient, is clearly understanding that you are accountable for something that falls within your scope, power, control or management. Every leader must clearly understand what must be achieved, under what parameters, and understand the responsibility to deliver the desired results. Without clearly defined responsibilities in place, progress stalls while a lack of clarity as to who is directly responsible for this work swirls about.

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Accountability, the third ingredient, requires senior leaders to check, validate and confirm that the team is delivering what is required, when it is required and in the manner that it is required. Equally important, accountability is also the assessment of not only what and when a particular result is delivered, but also how the responsible leader went about getting the work completed. Delivering the desired outcome, but missing deadlines or overspending budgets in the process simply doesn’t constitute acceptable results.  

Each of these three ingredients must be in place in order for successful results to be achieved. Missing any one of the three quickly produces issues and challenges.

Having the necessary authority and responsibility, without formal accountabilities being in place, quickly results in a lack of quality assurance and easily opens the door for inappropriate shortcuts and bad assumptions. This also creates an opportunity for poor leaders to abuse others in the process of delivering the results they are accountable for. Granted, while the best leaders may not require significant external accountability to perform, the shadows created by an accountability void are where weak, ill-equipped, “because I am the boss and I said so” managers like to lurk.

Possessing the necessary responsibility and accountability, without the authority required to deliver, quickly results in frustration and the inability to deliver on time as an excessive number of decision escalations will be necessary. This moves the leader into a role more akin to that of messenger and grinds progress to a halt. Imagine an airline captain having to check with flight operations before making an adjustment to avoid storms and the disaster that would ensue. Leaders must have the authority necessary to move and navigate as the situation warrants.

Having the required authority and accountability, without the clear assignment of responsibility, results in confusion and the associated lack of clarity quickly produces missed milestones, deadlines and targets. Without clearly established and communicated responsibility, leaders fail to understand that they are both empowered and expected to lead the work and will tend to be uncomfortable, afraid and often unable to move ahead on their own.

As leaders, we owe it to our teams to ensure that we provide the correct mix of authority, accountability and responsibility to those whom we assign leadership roles to. This is the recipe for results that will afford our leaders the opportunity to succeed, grow, learn and develop while ensuring that they are able to produce results. •


Matthew Pegg is the chief with Toronto Fire Services, having previously served in Georgina, Ajax and Brampton, Ont. Contact Matthew at matthew.pegg@toronto.ca and follow him on Twitter
at @ChiefPeggTFS. 


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