Understanding Leadership and Accountability

The organisation’s role in leadership and accountability

In the ideal situation:

  • The organisation gives priority to developing a positive work environment. The organisation focuses on leadership development for all staff.
  • The organisation involves staff in developing strategies for achieving the vision.
  • The organisation promotes a shared understanding and commitment to the vision and values.
  • The organisation encourages accountability at all levels of the organisation.

The manager’s role in leadership and accountability

In the ideal situation:

  • Managers share their understanding of the organisation’s vision with staff. They develop leadership strategies that they and their staff implement.
  • Managers develop their leadership skills to keep up with changing employment trends. They show leadership and lead by example. They adapt their leadership style to suit the needs of their staff.
  • Managers are clear about levels of accountability within the organisation. They trust their staff and encourage them to be involved in decisions that affect their roles and responsibilities.
  • Managers are aware of the impact of their decisions and actions on staff. They accept responsibility for both the positive and negative results of their decisions and actions.

The individual’s role in leadership and accountability

In the ideal situation:

  • Individuals understand and work towards achieving the organisation’s vision.
  • Individuals accept their level of responsibility and have authority to decide and act.
  • Individuals provide their manager with regular feedback on performance.
  • Individuals’ length of time in the organisation, understanding of their tasks and career objectives determine how they will be managed.

The litmus test for leadership and accountability

Some important questions to ask about your organisation:

  • Does the organisation promote leadership by example?
  • Is a system of accountability in place and communicated to all levels of the organisation?
  • Are managers and staff clear about their own level of accountability?
  • Is everyone in the organisation held accountable for the impact (both positive and negative) of their decisions and actions?
  • Do managers have confidence in their staff to delegate decision-making responsibility?
  • Do managers trust staff to make decisions on issues about their roles and responsibilities?
  • Does the organisation encourage everyone to develop leadership?


Measures that may be useful for confirming the quick check tool results or monitoring cultural change could include:

  • Employee satisfaction with leadership
  • Manager quality index

A Dictionary of People Metrics

Case study: From Manager to Leader

Laura had been a manager at Tour Victoria for three years already when a restructure brought her small team under Simone’s leadership.

Laura had always been a very productive worker and had received numerous commendations and performance bonuses for her efforts. However, leadership was a challenge for her. She had received no leadership training. In fact the only feedback she had received from her former boss was about what she was doing wrong. Laura constantly tried to prove herself in meetings by answering every question raised, not giving her staff a chance to answer. She also criticised individual staff members in front of others.

Her new manager, Simone spent her first few weeks simply observing Laura’s leadership style. Then one day she asked Laura ‘do you enjoy being a manager?’ The response was, ‘Yes, but?’ The meeting continued and soon revealed that Laura behaved the way she did because, without any training or guidance, being tough and holding people accountable was what she thought was expected of her and what she would be rewarded for. The first step Simone took was to appoint Jeff, a senior manager from another part of Tour Victoria to mentor Laura.

Jeff was well known as an excellent people manager and, although due to retire in another year, as a person deeply committed to Tour Victoria. Jeff taught Laura to relax during meetings, to hold back and let her staff come up with solutions and to share their knowledge and expertise. With Jeff’s help and further leadership development, Laura went from being the ‘dragon’ no one wanted to work with to being promoted because of her people as well as her technical skills.

Further resources for Leadership and Accountability

  • Leadership is a public sector value in the Public Administration Act 2004
  • Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees
  • Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees of Special Bodies
  • Developing Leaders: Strengthening Leadership in the VPS Directors’ Code of Conduct and Guidance Notes
  • Ethics Framework: chapter on ethical leadership
  • Ethics Framework Planner: how to provide ethical leadership
  • Great Managers, Great Results
  • Leading the Way: a component of the Ethics Resource Kit
  • Welcome to Management