Responsibility is the forefather to accountability, but one doesn’t evidence the other. When you admit responsibility to over drafting your checking account yet do it again next week, you’re not accountable. When you admit responsibility to fathering a child out of wedlock, yet continue to engage in that behavior, you’re not accountable. When you take responsibility for having your purse stolen but flaunt it on the table in open view, you’re not accountable.
Accountability is being culpable to your consequences and modifying your behavior if need be to prevent those consequences. You can be responsible while not being accountable. A Fastlane Forum user does a great job distinguishing between responsibility and accountability:
What kills me is when people make the same piss-poor choice multiple times but then claim to be responsible. It’s easy to be “responsible” when responsible means just walking away. I’ve seen single parents who pledge to be “responsible” for the wild oats they’ve sown, only to occasionally send a check in the mail. I’ve seen people walk away from homes, claiming to be “responsible ”for their actions, only to buy another home they can’t afford. I’ve seen people being “responsible” for the actions their drinking and driving caused only to do it again!
I am sick and tired of people being “responsible!” I want people to be accountable. People need to think before they act. Own their choices before they make them. I am okay with people making mistakes—but freaking own that you made a mistake and learn from it. That’s what true accountability and responsibility is all about.
A friend of mine recently had her identity stolen. As we dined at a restaurant she bellyached about the nightmarish ordeal. Determined to find the cause of her problem, I stopped her contempt midstream and asked a few questions. I wondered, was she a victim, or not being accountable? I asked, “How did your identity get stolen?”
“My purse was stolen in Mexico.”
“How did that happen?” I probed.
“I was at a restaurant and someone swiped it”
“Oh? Was your purse laid out, wide-open on the table, like it is now?”
She glanced at her purse and got my point. As we dined, her purse sat on the tabletop in open view of everyone. Any thief could easily snatch her purse and run. She looked at me, scoffed, and then grabbed her purse and secured it to her lap.
A victim? Or not holding herself accountable? Her problem was caused by a bad choice—the choice to not safeguard her purse. And even after this costly lesson, she still didn’t understand the power of being accountable. If she were accountable to the error, her purse wouldn’t lie exposed on the table as a beacon of opportunity to thieves, but safe in her lap.”
-Chapter 9, Page 72, “Millionaire Fastlane” by MJ DeMarco