Skip to content
× FreshBooks App Logo
FreshBooks
Official App
Free - Google Play
Get it
You're currently on our US site. Select your regional site here:
6 Min. Read

Accountability vs Responsibility: What’s the Difference?

Accountability vs Responsibility: What's the Difference?

What determines a thriving business? 

As a business owner, you learn key components of strong leadership. Whether freelancing your own independent projects, or managing a growing team of employees; a strong leadership is essential to a thriving business. 

Two key components that determine a strong leadership: accountability and responsibility. 

What's the difference? 

Here’s What We’ll Cover:

Accountability Defined

Responsibility Defined

Accountability vs Responsibility – What’s the Difference?

Accountability & Responsibility When Leading a Team 

Accountability and Responsibility When it Comes to Customer Experience

Both are Key in Running a Successful Business 

More Resources for Business Owners

Accountability Defined

What does it mean to be accountable? 

Accountability starts with a general understanding of various outcomes of a situation. In other roles, a strong accountable individual is able to make predictions of specific tasks to determine the benefits or outcome. 

Drive and Honesty

A strong leader with accountability will make decisions based on judgement, drive, and personal ambition. 

Personal accountability differs from team accountability, as a chosen team leader will be expected to make decisions, set team goals, and see out the completion of tasks. 

Components of Responsibility:

  • Committing to a task or project 
  • Setting a timeline and setting reminders to stay on schedule 
  • Making decisions based on fact 
  • Providing resolutions in situations of conflict 

Responsibility Defined

Responsibility is defined as the role of an individual expected to see out a specific outcome or task. 

A responsible individual will know what is asked of them, determine what tactics or steps they must take to complete a task, and commit to completing the project. 

Trust and Communication

Responsibility comes with a level of communication, trust, and time management. 

Many entrepreneurs and small business owners have learned the elements of responsibility as their business has grown, often by feeling the consequences of a lack of responsibility--either from personal goals or managing business connections. 

The key to powerful business management is learning the difference between accountability and responsibility, and how to implement both. 

Components of Accountability:

  • Thinking through the whole process of a task or project 
  • Outlining a predicting timeline 
  • Making decisions based on feeling and future predictions 
  • Building employee and customer relationships through communication 

Accountability vs Responsibility – What’s the Difference?

As you may be learning already, these two terms are somewhat interchangeable. Any successful entrepreneur will tell you it takes both to see through successful business operations. 

Accountability and responsibility in a business provides a level of professionalism in any given business by ensuring timely task management, communication, and customer support. 

While the terms are similar in ways, they do differ and add key components to your leadership. 

Commitment to Goal vs Honoring the Commitment

Essentially, responsibility is committing to a goal or assignment, and accountability is seeing through the steps it takes to honor that commitment.

Say an individual is placed in a position to complete a specific task for the business. They’ve been assigned a leadership role to see through the project and work with a team. 

As a leader, it's their job to manage time, delegate assignments, and drive a predictable course for the outcome of the project. 

Examples of Responsibilities:

  • Creating a time frame for the completion of tasks & set reminders to stay current on deadlines 
  • Assign specific roles to each employee on the project and thoroughly check in with them as the project builds 
  • Clear schedule to avoid any overlapping obligations or conflicting assignments 
  • Confidently present the completed project on time and without any conflicts or hesitations 

Examples of Accountability:

  • Thoroughly understand the concept of the assignment and what actions are required to see it though 
  • Determine how much energy will be needed for each task to decide who to place in each role 
  • Communicate with team to insure everyone is capable of seeing through the project 
  • Predict what steps will be necessary to insure a timely process and organized presentation 

An individual in a leadership role will have both the traits of responsibility and accountability by committing to a task deadline, and understanding what they have to do to see it through. 

Both traits are essential for any business manager delegating tasks or directing a team. 

Accountability & Responsibility When Leading a Team 

An accountable and responsible leader will use these traits to manage a team and minimize conflict with assigned projects. 

When managing a team, it's crucial to communicate and stay consistent as you assign roles to employees. 

Company leaders are responsible for holding their employees accountable and minimizing the culture of blame. Consequences of leaders that lack responsibility or accountability for their employees are often seen in cycles of blame, missed deadlines, and poor communication. 

To strongly lead a team, managers must claim both responsibility and accountability for their actions and decisions.

Key Traits: 

  • Thoroughly direct their assembly team and give them the resources they need to complete tasks 
  • Instill a culture of accountability in their employees by means of motivation and incentives 
  • Strengthen customer relationships by providing updates, timelines, and communication 
  • Must take personal accountability for the finished project 

Accountability and Responsibility When it Comes to Customer Experience

A strong leader knows the importance of staying connected to their customers and providing customer satisfaction. Accountability and responsibility measures play a vital role in customer relationships. 

If you’re taking accountability and responsibility for your business, your customers will experience that in many ways.

Key Traits: 

  • Customers will receive current updates on services being provided for them 
  • Customers will have access to customer service representatives for any questions or concerns they have
  • Information on new events and products will be delivered to customers 
  • Dissatisfied customers will have access to communication with the business in order to seek resolutions on conflict 

An entrepreneur running a small business will exercise both accountability and responsibility traits in order to provide a quality customer experience by both creating customer relationships, and ensuring customer satisfaction. 

Both are Key in Running a Successful Business 

The most important takeaway from this article is that leadership takes both accountability and responsibility. 

Responsibility is committing to a goal or assignment, and accountability is seeing through the steps it takes to honor that commitment.

A strong leader shows both traits by optimizing their schedule to implement important deadlines, making predictions on specific outcomes, and communicating with everybody involved in the operation. 

As time goes on in a new business venture, entrepreneurs will learn key components to running a smooth operation and providing consistent, quality service. Business owners must manage their responsibilities by assigning tasks, management positions, and customer relationships. 

More Resources for Business Owners


RELATED ARTICLES