Every leader says they desire a culture of accountability. The proof of their commitment is whether or not they create an open organizational culture. Closed cultures where leaders control information, what can be discussed or are defensive when challenged destroy accountability. Open cultures by definition encourage accountability.
There is a direct correlation between leaders who create closed cultures and their own ability to violate staff, make questionable decisions, become impervious to input, shut down honest discussion and become domineering in their leadership style. Dysfunctional leaders intuitively or by design can create closed cultures because open cultures allow others to challenge their views or practices.
Signs of a closed culture:
- There are issues that you know you cannot raise because your leader will become defensive. What this does is shield the leader from criticism or challenge because they keep the discussion from taking place.
- Robust dialogue is discouraged.
- Leadership cannot be challenged.
- Leaders withhold information or share it selectively so that staff never have the full picture of what is going on. The information hub is the leader.
- Often, in a closed culture, those who raise questions or challenge leadership are labeled as dissidents or as uncooperative.
- Financial information is often kept secretive.
- Staff are not empowered to act but need the permission of leadership.
- There is a high degree of pressure on staff to conform to the party line.
You can see how cultures with the above characteristics shield leaders from accountability. Whenever you limit discussion and dialogue you limit accountability. Closed cultures are unhealthy cultures and usually reflect an unhealthy leader. In contrast to this, consider the signs of an open culture:
- Information is available to all unless by nature it is confidential.
- Finances are transparent.
- Robust dialogue is encouraged: Any issue can be put on the table with the exception of a hidden agenda or a personal attack.
- Leaders are not threatened by questions, ideas, dialogue or differing opinions.
- Key decisions are vetted with stakeholders.
- All staff are treated with dignity and respect. No one gets a pass on treatment of staff that is unprofessional, unkind or disrespectful.
- Staff are encouraged to "think outside the box" in order to better fulfill the mission of the organization.
- Standards of behavior are the same for leaders and staff.
Open cultures create accountability because questions can be asked, dialogue engaged in and people cannot hide behind a veil of secrecy, control or pressure to keep the party line. The more open the culture the more accountability there is for everyone, not just leaders. Healthy cultures encourage healthy accountability.