Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines accountability as “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions”. In the Army, accountability is considered a wider concept. It is essential for the leader since it enables all the requirements presented by the Army Leadership Model. Without accountability, the leader will not be able to introduce these elements into their work. There are four main ways to be held accountable in the Army: accountability to superiors, subordinates, peers, and oneself.
The Army leadership model is a combination of requirements set for the Army leaders. Consisting of Attributes and Competencies, it was developed to inform them on what they have to be, do, and know. Attributes include character, presence, and intellect, while Competencies are leading, developing, and achieving. These characteristics are essential for a good leader. However, they would not be attainable without accountability, the key element.
The first aspect is accountability to superiors, which means being able to execute tasks without constant supervision. That may differ for Soldiers on basic combat training (BCT) and advanced individual training (AIT). Soldiers undergoing the first type of activity might need guidance because they are being introduced to the Army service. Soldiers who have completed AIT, however, have more skills and freedom to take charge of certain tasks. This will allow for a Soldier’s development as a leader.
The second important point is accountability to subordinates. Being a leader in the Army means teaching, coaching, and counseling other Soldiers. Therefore, a leader must ensure that a relationship with associates is developed, which will allow for effective work and problem-solving. According to Ricks, the commander is responsible for everything the unit does or fails to do. Therefore, a commander must be accountable to subordinates to ensure their welfare.
Another aspect is holding peers accountable, as well as being held responsible for them. The leaders must do the right thing, at the same time being loyal to their peers. It takes a strong character and courage to discuss the issues that may arise because of the peers’ mistakes. Proper communication will also provide an environment where leaders encourage each other to be more involved and committed. Being clear about one’s expectations and values will help to establish accountability in relationships with peers.
The last aspect discussed here is accountability that leaders must hold to themselves. The Army needs people who are responsible for their actions and mistakes, and who understand their strengths and weaknesses. The leaders must ensure that they are the best leaders they can be. In case there is a lack of specific skills or knowledge, the leader has to get the necessary training. Being proficient, they will be able to provide help to their subordinates and peers when the latter need it.
Above all, the leaders have to be taught about their responsibility to the country. It is important to remember that serving in the Army means being accountable to the U.S. people and the Constitution. Loyalty, duty, selfless service, and other army values must be learned and applied by every Soldier. All these allow creating a foundation for further improvement and a positive climate in the units. In addition, leaders who are accountable for the causes mentioned above experience personal growth and improved performance.
Accountable leaders are seen as dependable and strong Soldiers and Commanders. They are punctual, competent, and try their best to do the right thing at the right time and place. Accountability allows to gain peers’ trust and respect, as well as set an example for them to follow. Viewing their leader as a role model, Soldiers will adopt similar behavior patterns.
Regardless of the rank, accountability can and must be learned. The main way to do it is through experience, and the Army provides that experience. Leadership skills developed in a unique military environment have proven to be the strongest and the most sustainable. Serving in the military, Soldiers learn to be more self-aware. Every upgrade in rank gives them more privilege as well as more responsibility.
All this allows the conclusion that accountability is a crucial factor that contributes to the Army leaders’ growth. The components of the Army Leadership Model will only be implemented properly if accountability is applied. Learning how to be accountable to superiors, subordinates, peers, and oneself can provide valuable experience. The outcomes of such attitudes cannot be overestimated. Among them are improved performance, increased competency, better management skills, Soldiers’ involvement, and commitment.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary, s.v. “Accountability.” 2021, Web.
Ricks, Thomas E. The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today. New York: Penguin Group USA, 2013.
U.S. Department of the Army. AR 600–20 Army Command Policy. 2020. Web.
U.S. Department of the Army. Doctrine Publication ADP 6-22 Army Leadership and the Profession November. 2019. Web.