The difference between Accountability and Responsibility

The difference between Accountability and Responsibility in the Context of a Job Description (also known as a Position Description)

These two words get used in general conversation and are often perceived as the same.

The Collins Dictionary defines Accountability as

“the state of being accountable, liable, or answerable” and Accountable as “If you are accountable to someone for something that you do, you are responsible for it and must be prepared to justify your actions to that person.”

It defines Responsibility as

“If you have responsibility for something or someone, or if they are your responsibility, it is your job or duty to deal with them and to take decisions relating to them.”


In the Context of a Job Description having it is important to distinguished clearly between the two.

When a person is Accountable for a task or action, they have the ultimate Accountability to ensure the task or action is completed.

When a person is Responsible for a task or action, they are expected to perform the task.

So it is possible for a person to be:

Accountable and Responsible

Accountable but not Responsible. They delegate the task to be done but if it’s not done they are held to Account.

Not Accountable and Responsible. The task has been delegated to them to be done but they are not held to Account for the management of the work.

An example could be a CFO who is Accountable for the Annual Report. There are certain tasks that they need to perform and complete, say the preparation of the Financial Accounts.

There may also be a task to print and distribute the Annual Report. The CFO is Accountable to make sure it is completed, in time and on budget, but delegates this to the Marketing team to complete.

The simple way to understand this is only one person is held Accountable (the Buck stops with them) whereas many people can be Responsible.

Scroll to Top