Skip to main content

How to be accountable

Questions to Ask in 2021
The tragedy of the unaccountable leader gets replayed so often on the evening news that it has become a cliche.     Act 1 – Powerful leader is viewed with respect and envy by the public.     Act 2 – Feeling “above the law,” the leader abuses his power in some way. &…
By Seth Barnes

The tragedy of the unaccountable leader gets replayed so often on the evening news that it has become a cliche.

    Act 1 – Powerful leader is viewed with respect and envy by the public.
    Act 2 – Feeling “above the law,” the leader abuses his power in some way.
    Act 3 – The news of the leader’s misdeeds leaks to the public.
    Act 4 – The leader is disgraced and is forced to step down.

This four-act play perpetually repeats itself in the political and religious arenas. Whether it’s the near impeachment of Presidents Nixon and Clinton, Senator Stevens caught abusing his power, or Ted Haggard’s dirty laundry being hung out to dry, the tawdry truth eventually catches up with leaders whose character can’t support their aspirations.

The only good fix for this syndrome is to design systems of accountability that protect leaders from themselves. And even that isn’t enough – the leaders themselves have to have a healthy respect for evil. Only people who have been burned by evil know not to trust themselves. Money, sex, and power can be wonderful gifts or insidious, corrupting forces. None of us are impervious – we will all struggle.

I just heard about a ministry friend who got caught with his hand in the till. He broke the heart of his coworkers and those who followed his leadership. Too many of you are in danger of making that same mistake at some point in your ministry. If I could give you a gift it would be to live a more transparent life, one open to regular accountability.

Those in ministry have an even higher standard of accountability. Billy Graham had a healthy respect for evil. He would never ride in a car alone with a member of the opposite sex. He put in place checks and balances in his management to insulate himself from the temptations of power or finances.

In AIM’s ministry, my salary is set by our board and we periodically discuss the way I (along with our leaders) can stay above reproach. I’ve distributed the book Hedges to our leaders – it is filled with specific ideas to help ministers stay accountable.

Ultimately, the best way to stay accountable is to have some very close friends in your life who have permission to ask you any question and who can’t sniff out when something is off in your private world.

For me, that begins with Karen. We have a “no secrets” policy between us. Beyond that, I try to be an open book with about six guys who I am in covenant with.

So many leaders I’ve observed not only don’t have these types of relationships, they have the bad habit of living guarded, highly compartmentalized lives. The more secrets a person keeps, the greater the danger that they’ll fall. Look out for leaders who struggle to trust others.

At the end of the day, accountability is inviting scrutiny in your life. It’s another pair of eyeballs, another perspective. Those who don’t see this have a pride problem.

Women in America often struggle to find the kind of safe, intimate relationships that foster accountability. It’s true; they don’t seem to struggle with the standard temptations that plague males (if you doubt me, I invite you to list the number of scandals involving women and compare it to a list of men). But they may wrestle more with garden-variety temptations like envy or gossip.

Sadly, I can think of very few examples of women who have enjoyed great covenantal accountability relationships. Many women I’ve observed seem to struggle with trusting other women with their issues. This is an issue that I wish more people wrote about. Covenant and transparency seems difficult enough in America without introducing the variable of gender.

A final note on accountability – often in Christian circles people substitute a checklist of accountability questions like “Have you looked at pornography lately?” for the kind of true covenantal relationships that we were all made for. The personal scrutiny we need should have love at its core and should come in the context of a safe community.

Comments (8)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

about team