Be Like Harry

Be Like Harry

August 23, 2023

When was the last time you saw Harry Truman on a list of influential business leaders? Probably never. But the truth is that the values that Truman applied in leading the nation would do well for you in leading your business.

Truman is widely known for his commitment to integrity, accountability, team building and humility. Throughout his years in the Oval Office, Truman had a sign on his desk that spoke his most important leadership commitment: “The buck stops here.”

That philosophy is something we see consistently in successful managers and business owners. It’s one that we all would do well to adopt.

The concept of accountability does not mean that you must do everything. No business could operate like that. As a leader, you are accountable for the big picture, but you are not responsible for every task, action, or decision.

Accountability and responsibility are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. While responsibility can be shared among team members, with various people taking on specific tasks, accountability is generally vested in the leader. Responsibility is what happens while the work is being done. Accountability is what happens after the work is completed or a situation has occurred. It’s how you respond and take ownership over the results.

True leaders hold themselves accountable for the performance of their team. They work to make sure that responsibilities are fulfilled as expected and adjusted as necessary. They take ownership for conveying expectations and monitoring progress.

To be an accountable leader, it’s important to engage in effective two-way communication with the members of your team. Don’t just talk – listen. Ensure that your team understands the vision, mission, and goals and that they have what they need to fulfill their responsibilities.

When you demonstrate your willingness to hold yourself accountable – to be clear that the buck stops with you – you build trust in your team. People trust leaders who aren’t quick to blame others if things don’t go as planned, but who take accountability for their role in the consequences.

Without accountable leadership, a company may experience high employee turnover, poor performance, loss of customer loyalty and ultimately, a loss in revenue or business failure. Such losses can be slow and occur over time or they can happen suddenly if the business experiences a crisis and is unable to deliver on their promises.

A sure sign that accountability is lacking in a business is when the “blame game” occurs every time a mistake is made. Whether fingers are pointed up, down, or sideways, placing blame is the opposite of being accountable. And it’s never a good thing.

The next time someone asks you who your business role model is, mention Harry Truman and explain why. And maybe think about putting Harry’s sign on own desk.

Go on, be like Harry.


Chris Ann Williams, CEO