Watching officials from the Internal Revenue Service carefully parse their answers, or plead the Fifth, during testimony before Congress was a lesson in leadership arrogance and unaccountability. I wondered if they realized it was their “bosses” who were sitting across the room asking those tough questions. If I had behaved in a similar fashion with any of my supervisors over these past 40 years I’m pretty sure I would have been fired, or at the very least, reprimanded.
Regardless of who did what or knew what, as the leader of an organization, accountability begins and ends with you. You can’t simply announce to the world, “I did nothing wrong” and then hide behind the Fifth amendment. Yet, here were top government bureaucrats denying any responsibility for what happened under their watch.
How does an organizational culture become so arrogant that it lacks accountability in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary? What happens to the employees who labor daily in such an environment? Where do leaders gain a sense of entitlement and the power to wield fear and control on a daily basis? Can anyone trust a company or government who operates in this way?
Most businesses who choose the route of being unaccountable for their actions with customers and vendors will soon find their store, factory, or restaurant empty and bankrupt. Being accountable, especially when mistakes are made, is the only way to show clients that they matter.
If the IRS fails to change its culture and refuses to hold employees and leadership accountable for their exploits, then it is unlikely any American will trust their actions in the future. Whether you agree with paying taxes or not, it would be sad to know that the agency entrusted with collecting those revenues and enforcing existing codes can operate with impunity. In this case, being unaccountable has devastating consequences.