06/17/2014 04:33 pm ET Updated Aug 17, 2014

Creating a Culture of Accountability

No one in a leadership position wants to hear bad news, that programs or polices are not working as expected, or that irregularities and deceptive practices are undermining an organization's mission, reputation and bottom line. But smart leaders know they need to hear this.

Two recent events in the corporate and federal worlds, one at General Motors and the other at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), provide extreme examples of leaders being out of touch or deliberately deceived about what was occurring within their organizations.

At GM, an internal investigation found "a pattern of incompetence and neglect" in its decade-long failure to recall millions of defective small cars -- an enormous misstep that has been linked to a number of fatal accidents.