The military school that I went to in India in 1980 taught me the difference between responsibility and accountability that corporate warriors could use – there seems plenty of confusion here!
Perhaps it would help to think of one of the quotes that former President Harry S. Truman was famous for, and that is, “The Buck Stops Here”. That is probably the clearest and most well-known statements of accountability ever made, and it leaves no doubt in one’s mind as to where the ultimate responsibility lies.
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In my work with I think, write, and teach every day about the difference between Responsibility and Accountability. I’ve been studying individual and shared responsibility for 20 years and wrote the book
Some views fit uneasily in either of these two categories. Forexample, according to another influential view, someone is responsiblefor an action or attitude just in case it is connected to her capacityfor evaluative judgment in a way that opens her up, in principle, todemands for justification from others (Oshana 1997; Scanlon 1998; andSmith 2005/2008/2012). Such a view—call it the "answerability"model—appears to combine aspects of the attributability andaccountability models (see discussion by Watson 2011 and Shoemaker2012). The self-disclosure aspect of the attributability model isreflected in emphasizing that the target of appraisal must bejudgment-sensitive. The interpersonal emphasis characteristic ofStrawson-inspired accountability models is reflected in the demand forjustification (though answerability theorists tend to reject anecessary connection between these demands and the reactiveattitudes). In this way, the answerability model offers thepossibility of re-unifying discussions of responsibility (Smith 2012),but some see further grounds for distinguishing an additional sense ofresponsibility (Shoemaker 2012).
The difference between accountability and responsibility is obvious. Responsibility is about doing something and responding to concerned that you have completed the tasks that you were assigned with due process of law. Accountability is an obligations to answer the concerned that the tasks were completed . Failure to complete the tasks invites punishment if some body is responsible where as the failure to complete the tasks invites moral obligation to accountable persons to correct the mistakes or to take necessary actions against those who were responsible to do things. A manager could be both accountable and responsible depending on the situation.
Res: I will do it and bear sanction if I fail
Acc: I will make it done and I will correct it if I fail and take action against those responsible as will as I will moral responsibility for this failure.
The example you use could cause some confusion. You’re responsible for your kids behviours and caring for them, you’re not responsible to them but you do owe them a duty to care. That duty is more to do with morals than it is accountability or responsibility. Most laws are based on morals so it is no coincidence that you also have a legal responsibility to care, cases of neglect are accountable/answerable to the courts.
Broadly speaking, a distinction has been made betweenresponsibility as accountability and responsibility asattributability. Drawing on Strawson's work, manycontemporary accountability theorists maintain that to be responsibleis to be an apt candidate for the reactive attitudes (Bennett 1980;Wallace 1994; Watson 1996; Fischer & Ravizza 1998; and Darwall2006). In other words, an agent is responsible, if and only if it isappropriate for us to hold her responsible, or accountable, via thereactive attitudes. This highlights a main theme in Strawson--namely,that our responsibility practices are inherently social. Through thereactive attitudes (e.g., resentment) we communicate to fellow membersof the moral community our interpersonal expectation for a reasonabledegree of goodwill (Stern 1974; Watson 1987/1996; McKenna 1998/2012;Darwall 2006; Shoemaker 2007).
A manager delegates the responsibility for checking something, he remains responsible and accountable to the CEO and his subordinate becomes responsible and accountable to him. The accountability to the CEO direct isn’t delegated but the requirement is. If the task isn’t completed satisfactorily, the CEO can hold the manager to account and likewise, the manager can hold his subordinate accountable.
I dare say that ‘acting responsible’ has been understood through the years to describe a person who exhibits the behaviours associated with responsibility/accountability. The common understanding of the word has superseded its origin to the point where it appears to mean something other than being accountable.
After reading the posts here I have come to the conclusion that the idea of bottom-up responsibilty and top-down accountability is simply backwards. Let me give you an example: