Accountability v.s. Responsibility

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A couple of days ago, in my series “Cowgirl Lessons Learned”, I talked about responsibility.

Today, as I was thinking on what other character traits I could write about I came up with the idea to explore the topic of accountability.  However, when I first started writing I began thinking, “wait, isn’t accountability and responsbility the same thing?”, and I found myself somewhat confused on the difference of the two and where the line of difference is drawn.  Finally, after thinking on the two words throughout my day, I’ve come to a conclusion.  Accountability and Responsibility are often mistaken to be the same thing, however, they differ in application.

Accountability Definition: the state of being accountable, liable, or answerable.

Responsibility Definition: Something for which one is responsible; a duty, obligation, or burden.

*Webster needs to write a new definition for both accountability and responsibility.
Cowgirl Lessons Learned: Owning a horse is much easier said than done.  It entails much more than just toting the title around as “horse owner”.  It means you have to feed and water them daily, clean up after them weekly, and exercise them regularly.  What would you call all of these duties I just listed above?  I bet the majority of you chose Responsibilities.. and your partially correct, however, what if I were to tell you that all of these duties could be classified as being accounted for but not necessarily done responsibly?  Accountable, in that you completed the task, but possibly responsible because there is the question of whether or not you completed the task the right way (in most cases, morally). Lets take a look at a situation I find myself confronted with, in the horse world, to better illustrate my point.

When I’m training a horse for someone, as if that doesn’t entail a lot already, there is the added pressure of “30 days” or “60 days” of time to train that horse.  It has become an accepted time frame in the horse training industry and if you can’t produce in a short period of time you are deemed as 2nd rate to the neighbor down the road, who can do it in a couple of weeks.  Don’t get me wrong, I can train a horse in 30 days and account for all of the training that was asked of me to teach; but does that mean I was responsible and did it the “right way”?… Not necessarily.

Throughout your day, as you complete your tasks, you check them off as you go.  You are being accountable. You know what is expected of you and you can account for all of the duties as completed. But did you rise to the challenge, take the extra time, and/or on the flip side of things, say no to what you knew was wrong and do it the right way? In short, were you responsible?

For instance, in most riding disciplines (reining, western pleasure, trail, etc.) there is a typical trend for horses to have a “low head set”.  In a show ring, where a judge is looking for a relaxed, calm, and smooth team of both horse and rider, a low head means all of the above.  To produce such an outcome takes time.  You can’t build trust between a horse and rider in a day… however, some trainers are pressured into being accountable for this expectation, in 30 to 60 days, and short cuts are taken.  This is an example of being able to say you did the training… accountability… but not responsibly.. because you took shortcuts.  Remember, shortcuts may be satisfying in that moment, but long term, they usually lead to bad habits and a shakey foundation.

Whether you’re at work, in class, or riding your horse, don’t just be accountable for the “to-do” list but responsible, to yourself and others (your boss, your friends, etc.) in how you complete those tasks.

Quote: “Accept accountability in your life because it breeds discipline, but practice responsibility in every accountable thing you do, because your ultimate success depends on the choices you make in the process.” ~Shyla Pheasant

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