Accountability is the cornerstone of any organization. Accountability equals trust and each member of an organization or team must be able to trust that their teammate is accountable and will always execute the mission at the same high standard. The standard is excellence and as Airmen we should accept nothing less, but we often do.
However, when it comes to our public officials we will not accept a lack of accountability. A misstep, an inappropriate tweet, a few misplaced or ill-timed words and pundits across the nation begin calling for resignations.
We also do not accept a lack of accountability from our favorite professional athletes or teams. We take to the airways, twitter and Facebook to provide detailed advice on how a team can run, pass, catch or throw better. We will pontificate endlessly about a loss of integrity for the game and that play is sub-standard. However, when it comes to enforcing uniform standards, technical orders, protocols, etc., Airmen are conflicted and debate internally whether they should address their teammate or look the other way. Each time we elect to look the other way we establish a new standard for our teammates and ourselves, we erode the Air Force culture and champion the antithesis of our core values.
The Air Force is a highly functional team equal to those celebrated on Sunday afternoons. Yet I hear all too often from teammates, NCOs, company-grade and field-grade officers a reluctance to enforce standards because they are unsure if their decision will stand up against the scrutiny of a growing sub-culture that includes a “me vs. us” attitude, arrogance and narrow focus.
Are we allowing the organization to tout that we are the best with the full knowledge that there are few consequences for those who do not perform to standard or inhibit positive team work?
As leaders it is our responsibility to enforce standards and chart a path for success for our organizations. Part of that success is enforcing a culture of individual responsibility and accountability. If the sub-culture has taken over, there will be an uphill battle.
Peter Drucker, renowned author and management consultant noted, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” He is right. If you do not understand and shape the culture of the organization your strategy and mission will fail. Culture, mission and strategy must all align to have success.
A few months ago I had the opportunity to travel back to Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, to witness a basic military training graduation. I watched Airmen, having been newly indoctrinated into the Air Force culture filled with a huge sense of pride and accomplishment as they congratulated each other for a job well done. They had arrived as individuals but were leaving as members of a highly functional team dedicated to the mission and the core values.
We are all leaders, charged with maintaining the integrity of this team. Do not allow the few who choose self before service to distract us from our sense of purpose, focus on the mission and desire to achieve unprecedented results. Raise the standard around you and refuse to settle for anything less than excellence. Accountability is the cornerstone of our organization. Are you a great teammate?