Responsibility, Authority and Accountability


Responsibility, Authority and Accountability

As you grow in stature, the level of responsibility, responsibility and accountability increases accordingly. From the outside, the only focus is on authority. For a normal person having a senior position in an organization means having more power and much more opportunities to enjoy that position. But reality is the other way around, as we should know that with more authority, you get more responsibility and also more accountability. 

I once asked a candidate, during an interview for the Project Coordinator position, why he wanted to join the Project Management Domain? His response was that he thinks that project managers don’t have to do anything. Unfortunately, the same concept goes around most of the professionals till the time they themselves taste the real thing.

The level of expectation, authority, responsibility and accountability are different at different levels. Let me share a few examples to review it for different levels in a software development company. 


The developer is the basic but core position in a software development company. The authority at this level is very minimal and is only related to access to relevant code etc. The responsibility is also limited just to build/write quality code and similarly the accountability is just for the code quality and best coding practices etc. Similarly, different basic roles have a basic level of expectations only. 

Team Lead:

The team lead has more authority as he/she can direct resources reporting to him on different assignments. As lead, you are responsible for resources reporting to you and may be following your instructions. The accountability is also for you and your team’s responsibilities. 

Project Manager:

The Project Manager has authority over all its team members. The Project Manager can assign any activity to any resource. As a result, the Project Manager is responsible for the whole team. The accountability is also not just for his/her own performance but for all the team’s performance. In case of project success or failure, the Project Manager will be the person responsible and will be accountable for the same. No one will be reaching out to any of the resources and only the Project Manager has to do all the explanation especially in case of failure. 

Chief Executive Officer:

The CEO is considered as the top most position in any organization and is believed to enjoy the ultimate level of authority. The CEO is the final approver of organizational or top level corporate strategies. The CEO is similarly responsible for organizational success and the CEO is accountable for organizational level results by the Board of Directors. 

The above few examples show how the level of responsibility and pressures mount as you move up the ranks. The point to understand, especially for those resources who are starting their careers or are in their early years, is that they not only have to focus on the good things, benefits and power they see in top level positions. What they are unable to imagine is how their experience and senses are tested at that level. 

I have discussed in my article “Don’t Avoid the Ladder” regarding the importance of going through the process to be really successful. Not anyone can be heading a team or a department unless he/she acquires or possess a certain level of experience and skill set. Without experience and skill set, no one is competent to face the challenges the senior positions challenge you with. 

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