In giving a recent group presentation to leaders, there was an audible exhale in the room when I dropped the line “You don’t manage people, you manage the energies of people.” Energy is often synonymous with emotion. Emotion and energy go hand in hand. We express emotion in much the same way we harness energy. Each day the energy we bring varies and our emotions vary as well.

The leader is accountable for the performance of the team; individual team members are responsible for the energies and emotions they bring to the team. The key distinction in that sentence is the difference between accountable and responsible.

Stress escalates when we attempt to take responsibility for things we can’t control. Leaders sometimes get trapped in taking on responsibility for things they are accountable for yet in reality are not responsible for.

Let’s take a closer look at the distinction between accountable and responsible.

1. As a leader, you are accountable for results. The people you lead are responsible for results. Ask your accountable self:

  • Am I doing their work?
  • Have I hired the right people to do the work?
  • Do I trust my people to do the right work at the right time?
  • Am I maximizing the strengths of my people and helping to minimize their weaknesses?

 2. As a leader, you are accountable for the team environment. The people you lead are responsible for their own engagement. Ask your accountable self:

  • How do I honor engagement on the team?
  • How do I address disengagement on the team?
  • Am I inviting engagement?
  • Am I hiring for engagement?

3. As a leader, you are accountable for helping people find answers. Neither you nor the people you lead are responsible for having all the answers. 

  • A little grace for you and your team goes a long way. How are you modeling that behavior for yourself and the people you lead?

You are accountable for a lot.
You are responsible for a lot less than you may be taking on.