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Celebrating 50 years of Building High Performance Corporate Teams - 1971 to 2021

The military is known for producing good leaders. The following series features leadership wisdom from former Canadian military leaders now in private enterprise. In the first 2 minutes, a military leadership trait will be applied to business. In the final minute, we will discuss how to develop the trait, or how to identify that trait in an interview.

Leadership Trait – Accountability/Responsibility

“Throughout my military career in operations in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, I was always in a position of accountability and responsibility – being accountable to achieve an objective while being responsible for the soldiers, equipment and vehicles I was putting in harm’s way. In the “heat of battle” it was my job to drive out a solution in hostile and unfamiliar conditions. Today, when issues and problems emerge at the bank, it is my role to own the problem and drive out a solution from the various specialists in my department.”

David Mack is a former Black Watch Officer with the British Army in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, now a banker with The Royal Bank.


David’s comment of “it is my role to own the problem” is very insightful. This is a key distinguishing characteristic of all good leaders. You earn the trust of your superiors by being found to be trustworthy and dependable. You will go far in your career if they know they can count on you to get the job done, no matter what obstacles you encounter.

To develop this trait, make a personal commitment that you will always complete every task you take on. Then, never commit to a task that you know you won’t be able to complete, without first bringing your concerns forward to the “powers that be”.

To identify this trait in candidates you are interviewing, ask a question like “Tell me about a time when you were unable to complete a project on time and on budget”, and follow this up (if necessary) with questions like “What were the obstacles?”; “What did you do about them?”; “How did you keep your manager informed?” and “What did you learn from the situation?”