The Salvation Army has recently embarked on a drive for better accountability. The previous General of The Salvation Army, André Cox worked tirelessly to ensure those in our movement – employees, junior and senior soldiers, active and retired officers, adherents, advisory board members, volunteers and friends are more accountable.
Spiritual leaders are subject to accountability
I was reminded of this when I read this post by Jenni Catron. In it, she reminds us that leaders are to be held accountable for the way they watch over those in their care. The writer of Hebrews says:
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. (Hebrews 13:17 NIVUK).
The greater the leadership, the greater the accountability
Leadership, as we have seen in recent days, has many pitfalls. I know that I am prone to seeking approval, and that leadership is more often about me than it is about others. But Jenni stopped me in my tracks, by asking:
Do we recognize that with greater leadership we are not less accountable, we are actually more accountable?
I thought about that in the context of a hierarchical movement like The Salvation Army. We – myself included – are prone to making any accountability a downward movement. As a commanding officer of a local corps (church) I strive to hold my leaders and those in my care accountable for the ministry and their actions. But in our local corps, who holds me to account?
Does accountability only cut one way?
I am held to account from above. I must stick to a budget, and seek permission to go outside it. I am required to send in any number of “returns” – reports on services provided, ministries maintained, numbers attending and so on. I am held accountable for ensuring the health and safety of those I am responsible for. This includes not only writing and enforcing risk assessments and policies, but seeing to annual checks on things like emergency lighting, fire equipment, gas installations and so on.
But bearing in mind Jenni’s cogent argument that we are more accountable the greater the leadership we have, I wonder if it works the other way in The Salvation Army? What opportunities do soldiers, adherents and friends, and even corps officers and centre managers have to hold divisional leaders or territorial leaders or even international leaders to account?
Unaccountable leaders can become blind to the pitfalls of leadership. Leaders who lack accountability are prone to surrounding themselves with people who make them feel safe, rather than those who might challenge them and the decisions they make.
Accountable both ways
I am challenged to remain accountable, not just from “above” but from those I am responsible for too. In my last appointment, I conducted a regular Leadership Evaluation Survey. This week, I have been reminded it’s time to dust it off once more.
Accountability matters. It works so much better if it cuts both ways.
As a leader, how do you keep yourself accountable? Why not comment below.
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Why not check out these posts from around the blog?
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