Leadership Can Be Messy

You know that feeling when a quote just ‘speaks to you’? That is how I felt when I heard Brene Brown speak about her work in her Ted talk, The Power of Vulnerability. Leadership – and leadership training and coaching – can be messy.

While Brene was talking about research into vulnerability, empathy and shame – it had me think on my work with leadership and teams. Yes – it can be messy, and it certainly isn’t perfect – there are so many variables to leaders and the teams they work with. Yet there are some common truths and practical ways of leading that apply to most teams – if you know what to look for and understand how to apply it (and when). It is that ‘laying out of the code’ that drives me to work with the amazing teams and leaders that I do – and to keep learning.

Leadership and leading others – particularly now when we can see so many challenges in front of us – is more important than ever. It takes leaders getting their hands dirty – and sometimes having to deal with the messy stuff – that often brings out the best in themselves and the people around them.
And that is what I live for.


Are You A More Responsible Or Accountable Leader?

Are you a more responsible or accountable leader? When it comes to leading others, leading teams and leading high-performing teams, there is always a balance between getting your own work completed as well as that of your team. Often we can get caught doing all of our own work, and not paying attention tot he work of our team. Likewise, we can easily be focussed on the team’s work and needs, and leave our own work to the last minute.

Responsibility and Accountability are two key leadership behavioural traits that are measured within IMLD’s Velocity Leadership CheckPoint.

So what is better? To be more accountable or more responsible.So that we are clear, let me explain the difference between responsibility and accountability.


Your responsibility focusses on your ability to hold yourself ‘to account’. It is ensuring that you keep the promises that you make to others as well as yourself.

Responsibility is a cornerstone of good leaders. A responsible leader accepts and owns the fact that they have a duty to deal with something or have control over someone (or a team). A responsible leader accepts the ability to respond – ‘response – ability’ – and demonstrates the ability to hold themselves to account for their behaviour.

Your Responsibility Score is one of 5 key behaviour traits within the Achieve leadership capability.


Your accountability focusses on your ability to hold others ‘to account’ It is ensuring that they keep the promises that they made to you and to others.

Leaders that demonstrate accountability are willing and able to hold someone to task for their behaviours and their actions. Lack of team accountability results in objectives and tasks being delayed, trust in team members eroding and the standing of your team diminished. A leader that holds the team to account achieves more and is more likely to be respected.

Your Accountability Score is one of 5 key behaviour traits within the Altitude leadership capability.

Ideal Settings

Ideally as a leader, you are aiming to be as responsible and accountable as you can be. The aim is to ensure that both you and your team are completely dependable – you deliver what you say you would, at the standard you said it would be completed, at the time you said it would be done by. In the perfect world, this would be done all of the time. But we don’t live in a perfect world! Factors outside our control can have an impact on both responsibility and accountability. Equally, factors within our control can have an impact as well.

A leader who suffers from procrastination is likely to be less responsible – putting off tasks that should have been completed at a specific time. In this manner, they break promises that they may have made to themselves, or promises that they made to others.

A leader who struggles with the ‘uncomfortableness’ of difficult conversations is likely to be less accountable – they will let people ‘off the hook’ rather than having an uncomfortable conversation about getting a task completed.

Many leaders don’t have being responsible and being accountable in balance, and it can have impacts both on themselves as well as their teams.

Impact of Being More Responsible Than Accountable

Being more responsible than accountable can have detrimental impacts on both the leader and their team. Many new leaders have the trait of being more responsible than accountable – they are used to doing work for themselves and are unaccustomed to empowering or delegating to team members. This can become a chronic behaviour if the leader is incredibly task or goal focussed, and enjoy completing things for themselves (or struggle to let go of things). With poor communication, this type of behaviour can also be seen as micro-managing.

When the responsibility skills are more developed than accountability skills, the leader can think things like ‘it is just easier if I do this myself’ rather than teaching or guiding others. Over time, the leader can start to get resentful for the additional work and tasks that they have taken on (but rarely see that this is in part causes by their own behaviour). At the same time, the team can lose interest in helping the leader and get bored, as well as feel micromanaged on the tasks that they have been given (which are often menial because the leader is completing the more difficult tasks). Overall, a leader who is far more responsible than accountable can get work completed themselves (and feel overworked), and create an unhappy work environment.

Impact of Being More Accountable Than Responsible

Being more accountable than responsible can also have detrimental effects on the leader and the team. A leader with these traits holds their team to a greater level of account than they hold themselves which, over time, the team will become resentful of. No team member wants to feel that they are being taken advantage of – particularly when it is obvious that the team is working harder than the leader.

Examples include:

  • the team turning up to a meeting on team but the leader arriving late,
  • the team completing their components of a report and having to wait for the leader to complete theirs,
  • the team cleaning up the kitchen but the leader expecting others to do it for them.

Importantly, the leader does not need to do the same things as the team – there are many times when the leader needs to focus on tasks / actions that only they can do while the team focusses on other things. This is about work rate and effort – and the team noticing that they are consistently working harder than the leader. In this setting, the team can quickly become resentful of working harder than the leader. At the same time, the leader can lose credibility and trust by expecting the team to put in more effort than they are. Overall, a leader who is far more accountable than responsible will create a poor work environment and most likely lose team members in the process.

Low Responsibility and Low Accountability

Having both low responsibility and low accountability will most likely result in a leader not staying a leader for very long. They set low standards for themselves and for the team, and routinely miss deadlines and targets for both. While I am sure we have all experienced leaders that have low traits in both responsibility and accountability – very few of us would regard them as good leaders.

Related Articles:

The Top 25 Behaviours That Define Great Leaders

The 5 Leadership Behaviours That Drive Great Cultures

Want to Know if You Are More Responsible Than Accountable?

The Velocity Leadership CheckPoint measures 25 leadership behavioural traits, including Responsibility and Accountability. Knowing how you currently behave as a leader is the first step to making a positive difference in leading yourself and your team.

If you would like to know your scores and what you can do to influence them, get in touch with us today.


Leaders Own Their Mistakes

We all make mistakes – so why do so many leaders (and many with a public profile) find it so hard to admit it? Leaders own their mistakes.

Admitting you made a mistake is not a sign of weakness – it is a sign of growth. You may have learnt more, understood more, realising your opinion didn’t consider a particular point of view. Why is that so hard to admit?

For many leaders, instead of ‘admitting a mistake, apologising and correcting the behaviour’, they follow one or more of the negative set of BLEED behaviours. Why ‘BLEED’ – because they suck the life out of a leaders and a team’s standing and credibility.

❌ Blame – it is not their fault, it is someone else’s
❌ Leniency – they go ‘soft’ on themselves or others for making mistakes
❌ Excuses – there is always a ‘reason’ why they made a mistake that couldn’t possibly be their own behaviour or opinion
❌ Exoneration – acknowledge that the mistake happened, but never admit fault and pretend that it had no impact
❌ Defence – won’t admit mistake – in fact, they ‘double down’ and try to make you wrong. Gaslighting 101

For leaders, the sentiment of the quote is far more effective:
? Take ownership for your mistakes and if it is warranted, apologise
? Take responsibility for the mistake, and correct the behaviour so that it doesn’t happen again.

Related Blog Posts

10 Negative Things To Give Up As a Leader

The AIR/BLEEDS Model for Personal Leadership


Leaders and Managers – First You Must Lead Yourself

Before leaders and managers can lead others, they must be able to lead themselves – as well as look after themselves.

I ❤️❤️ Adam Grant‘s post here – especially the parts about rest and breaks.

For many leaders, the idea of a rest or a break seems like a sign of weakness. I have stopped counting the number of managers and leaders that I have coached in Executive Leadership Coaching sessions, that when asked if they take a lunch break, answer ‘never’. They are often also the first in and last out of their office. You can see the fatigue on their faces – and they often don’t know a different way of doing things. While the thinking is often that they need to ‘lead by example’ – what is the example they are setting?

Leaders and Managers Must Look After Their Own Welfare As Well As Their Teams

Think of it this way. Is it better to be at work 100% of the time, working at 60% efficiency (due to tiredness and fatigue), or 85% of the time at 85% efficiency? The former provides opportunity for burnout, the latter a path (perhaps) to sustained efficiency.

Which Leaders and Managers Set The Worst Examples?

The worst people at setting this example: leaders and managers.
The worst micro-group: small business and family business leaders and managers.

These groups aren’t looking to set a bad example – in fact, it is often the exact opposite. These leaders work incredibly hard and put their team and business first (and often second and third). But it is that kind of selflessness that puts themselves last; sacrificing themselves, their time and their energy to get things done. Basically, this is not sustainable. The hard part is getting out of the habit.

Taking a set break, and working a set number of hours, is good for your sustained health and the sustained health of your team and business.

Looking To Develop Your Example? Executive Leadership Coaching Can Help

Focussed, personal, confidential, honest and practical – all words that have been used in testimonials to describe the Institute of Management & Leadership Development’s Executive Leadership Coaching. If this sounds like something that could be useful for you or a member of your team, get in touch with us today for a confidential chat about your needs. If you would like to read what other clients experienced and gained through the Executive Leadership Coaching process, check out our LinkedIn recommendationsreviews and testimonials.

#leadership #leadershipdevelopment #coaching #mentalhealth #sustainability


Leaders Take Responsibility – Not Blame

Leaders take responsibility – not blame. This recent post from Leadership First doesn’t quite get this right – I understand the sentiment but not the practicality in real teams.

Rather than ‘leaders take all of the blame’ – I would focus more on leaders take all of the ownership and responsibility. They should certainly shoulder the blame for the team under their control – but all of the blame?

The key leadership behaviours of Responsibility, Accountability and Intention are fundamentals in the Emerging Leaders Program, Team Leader Program as well as the Executive Leadership Program at IMLD.

Included within the IMLD leadership frameworks is the personal responsibility model, or AIR?BLEEDS model, looking at the more effective and least effective leadership behaviours. The model is:

Accountability, Intention, Responsibility and Blame, Leniency, Excuses, Exoneration, Defence, and Shame

AIRBLEEDS - Personal Responsibility and Productivity Model

Team members don’t learn from mistakes if all of the blame is shouldered by the leader. Teams learn when they understand the consequences – good or bad – of their actions. Leaders can protect their team from negative talk and consequences, but they shouldn’t hide them from actions to improve and possible consequences – there is great power in shouldering that together.

I also don’t think they should give away ‘all the credit’. Leadership takes something – and that should also be acknowledged. I think the sentiment should be for leaders not to take credit for teams work, and certainly not take full credit for work that isn’t their own. I do think they should be able to acknowledge their small part in leading the team. A leader sharing in the success of a team also can also demonstrate pride with the team – as a team member that is something I valued highly – when my leader demonstrated clearly that he / she was proud of the team.

Great leaders take credit and blame along with their team and business – they do not have to martyr themselves to make / prove a point.

Related Articles:

Personal Responsibility & The AIR/BLEEDS Model

Does Blame Tarnish Your Leadership Ability?

Exoneration: The Standard You Walk Past Is The Standard You Accept


The Traits Of The Most Ineffective Leaders

‘The most ineffective leaders are those that have the dangerous combination of both arrogance and ignorance.’

They do not learn.

I was recently in a forum group who asked ‘Who are the most difficult types of leaders to coach?’. It was a tough question to answer because honestly, in recent years, I haven’t been asked to complete Executive Leadership Coaching this type of person. The answer is simple on reflection – the most difficult type of leader to coach ISN’T looking to be coached. They already believe they have it all figured out. In my experience, the most difficult (and dangerous) type of leader is the one who has a blend of both arrogance and ignorance. A recent Forbes article discusses the devastating individual and organisational consequences of working with ineffective leaders.

They are the leader that believes in their own self-importance more than anything else. In the face of being shown that their idea or view is wrong (and despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) rather than apologising or changing their mind, they double down on their view. They make the people around them wrong. They blame others. They look in every direction for where the problem may lay (see our post on the AIR/BLEEDS Responsibility Model) – except in the direction that will actually have an impact – inwards.

When we talk about toxic leaders and toxic workplaces, more often than not, you will find a leader who has a blend of arrogance and ignorance at their core. You do not have to look very hard in public life to see leaders demonstrating this horrible blend of arrogance and ignorance. But it doesn’t need to be this way.

Great Leaders Are Humble Learners
Great Leaders Are Humble Learners

Great leaders take the time to listen to their people, they read widely and deeply and seek to understand what is going on around them (and their business). They are decisive and clear in their decision making, and yet, they can apologise, acknowledge and ‘own’ when they have been wrong.

The true leaders are humble and learn from mistakes – they are not arrogant and ignorant.


Emerging Leaders Program – August 2021

I am very excited about today (and its a Monday)! We have the opportunity and privilege to work with some amazing managers and leaders from Summer Foundation Ltd as part of their Emerging Leaders Program, which officially starts today.

For the next 6 months, we will be honing some leadership and behaviour skills with some amazing people who work in a demanding and challenging industry.

The last couple of weeks has involved Velocity Leadership CheckPoint completion, debriefing with every participant, and setting some clear individual and business goals for the program.

I probably say that every program and workshop that we run is my favourite, and yet the Emerging Leaders program is at the top of the list.

Thank you to the leadership group of Summer Foundation for allowing us the opportunity to guide, coach and train your future leaders.
#leadership #leadershipdevelopment #coaching #IMLD #developingleaders


Executive Leadership Coaching Testimonial – Asaf Ziv, CardioScan

Wednesday is all about gratitude at Institute of Management & Leadership Development – and I must admit to be ing truly humbled by this. It is a pleasure to work with goal oriented leaders – and it is easy to be dedicated when the people you work with are so willing to challenge themselves to improve their leadership behaviours through Executive Leadership Coaching.

A brilliant and genuine coach with a passion to help and listen. Michael empowers thought leadership through unbiased perspective while ensuring a comfortable space to express and bounce ideas. Even with the recent lockdowns, Michael created a virtual space where we challenged thoughts and ideas to improve outcomes through creative metaphors and examples in a humorous and engaging way. I was very much looking forward to our sessions together, bouncing ideas and challenges. He is very enthusiastic and dedicated(!) and always follows through, even beyond our scheduled sessions. I also really connected and enjoyed Michael’s distinctive approaches to visualising problems through aviation and his Air Force experience.

I would highly recommend Michael to any executive/manager wanting to enhance their senses and build on their managerial career forward. He has been a fantastic help in the last four months, and his commitment to helping me achieve my goals has been outstanding.

Asaf Ziv, cardioScan

Thank you ❤️
#executivecoaching #leadership #coaching #leadershipdevelopment #IMLD #developingleaders #executiveleadershipcoaching


Everyone Deserves To be Part Of A Great Team

Yes – everyone deserves to be part of a great team BUT are you doing enough to deserve to lead a great team?
What does it take to lead a great team right now? It certainly looks a lot different to what it did 5 years ago – even 2 years ago. Have you adjusted your leadership style to cater to the current needs of your team and the environment around you?

If you haven’t changed and adapted your leadership style in the last 2 years – chances are you aren’t meeting the needs of your team. The empathy, communication (active listening and verbal comms), transparency and self-awareness needs of your team – just to name a few – will have changed dramatically. Your leadership skills should change to match.

If you need to give your leadership skills an overhaul, or just need to know what your strengths and weaknesses are – get in touch and complete our Velocity Leadership CheckPoint. We developing leaders, who build and lead high performing teams that can adjust to changing environments.

#leadership #leadershipdevelopment #coaching #change #culture #IMLD #developingleaders


Small Businesses Are The Heartbeat of a Community

I was trying to think on a post that inspired / felt positive this morning upon the announcement of yet another lockdown. I couldn’t find it. Small businesses are the heartbeat of a community – seems to fit the bill.

Just prior to lockdown, I found this written on the wall of a local pub and it resonated with me. I am lucky enough to work with many leaders of small businesses – the lifeblood of the community.

While I know that I will get through this lockdown – and whatever happens next – I know that the emotions and frustrations of many of us are different. The impact on us, as well as our small businesses, is just as varied as the people that live here.

I just wanted to reach out and say that if you are struggling with this latest lockdown, and just need someone to talk to or vent your frustrations with, DM me or follow my contact details and contact – you don’t have to deal with this on your own.
M ❤️