Scrutinize me, please! The drivers, manifestations and implications of accountability-seeking behaviour

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Accountability-seeking behaviour, where people and organizations willingly subject themselves to scrutiny, seems counterintuitive. The common understanding is that increased accountability has negative consequences for the accountor; and so why would anyone voluntarily seek accountability when it is not required? Current explanations hold that voluntary accountability can be explained by external pressures, and the proponents are not convinced by the argument that it is beneficial to the accountor. In contrast, this study finds that accountability often serves the accountor’s interests. A six-part typology of accountor-beneficial motivations is developed, the empirical adequacy of which is tested through extensive case studies. The results show that accountability can be a means rather than a burden in the hands of political executive leaders.
These findings challenge the conventional principal-agent understanding of accountability and suggest that the study of the ill-understood practice of democratic accountability would benefit from a more leader-centric perspective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)684–699
JournalPublic Administration
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Public accountability
  • Voluntary accountability
  • Political leadership
  • Logic of consequentiality
  • Political skill


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