Stepping Up to Ownership: Why It Goes Hand-in-Hand with Bolder Leadership

Stepping Up to Ownership: Why It Goes Hand-in-Hand with Bolder Leadership

A sense of ownership is the most powerful weapon a team or organization can have.”
– Pat Summitt

  • He made a mistake, but he didn’t think it was his fault. He points the finger at someone else.
  • Months after being assigned the lead on a major project…results are lacking. Why? She wasn’t given a clear enough vision.
  • That challenge retaining employees for any length of time? “Nothing much we can do…it’s a sign of the times.”

Any number of us may have encountered any of the above scenarios at any given time throughout our careers. And while I’m surely not naming any names here (although I am pointing a finger at myself), we may have even been “guilty” of dropping the ball in our own ways at one time or another.

What’s wrong with that? You might ask. Well, nothing…if we are ok with not creating much impact in our companies, with not making much of a difference in the world, or with less-than-productive relationships.

But if impact, making a difference, and collaborative relationships are important to us as leaders (and, big hint here, they should be!), then we need to take a stronger step toward ownership of what it is we want to create.

Leaders, Make the Choice to Take Ownership

To ring in 2023, I wrote about the Power of Choice in Bolder Leadership.

This year, let’s take the concept of choice a bit deeper.

Let’s talk Ownership.

“Ownership is the essence of leadership.
When you are ridiculously in charge, then you own whatever happens in a company.”
– Henry Cloud

It’s said that ownership is leadership. After all, in leadership, we are owning our power to create our visions and to inspire others to do the same. Each of us has the power of choice. This means we must fully choose our outcomes – owning every step of the process.

The Dilemma of Ownership in Leadership

The biggest recurring intended outcome for the Top Team workshops I orchestrate is drumming up greater ownership of the results.

Identifying ownership as an important outcome is all fine and well, but how do we get there?

Perhaps the easiest way to describe what ownership looks like is to define what it isn’t:

Ownership is not about:

  • falling into the “It’s not my job” or “That isn’t my responsibility”
  • passing the buck to someone else to avoid being accountable.
  • talking the talk, but not walking it.
  • Waiting for someone else to rescue us. (This one has been my personal favorite – lol.)

Ownership as a concept is not complicated.

This statement from Infoglen via LinkedIn sums it up:

“Ownership … means being accountable, taking responsibility, being decisive, solving problems, delegating, not playing the blame game and basically, taking charge.

There are core concepts that make up ownership – and any of us can benefit from incorporating them throughout our lives and leadership.

The 3 Basics of Taking Ownership

Let’s start with 3 basics that can help us – or anyone we lead – become a master of taking ownership.

“The success of a vision is determined by its ownership by both the leader and the people.”
– John C. Maxwell

  1. Clarity. It’s impossible to truly take ownership of anything if a clear vision is lacking. Whether we have a strategic vision we’re working on or we’re focused on amping up our leadership, we’ve got to have a purpose and to know what it is.

As Stephen Covey suggests, “Start with the end in mind.”

And while we may have heard this before too, it bears mentioning again:

What’s our WHY?

Developing a clear purpose benefits us in so many ways. It can help:

  • Inspire us to stay focused on what’s important
  • Jump back on track when we’ve fallen off course
  • Set intentions that help support accountability
  • Empower smart, mindful choice-making
  • Save time and energy by avoiding pitfalls

The deeper we can get down on the “why” scale, the better. For example, if we have a mindset focused on “getting ahead,” we’re far less likely to take true ownership in our leadership. Why? (No pun intended here!) Because in that case our “why” lacks meaning. The more meaning for us – and our teams – the greater the ownership. In this case, then, making a difference or being of service are far more likely to engender ownership than merely wanting to get promoted ever could.

That’s one reason why so many of my Top Team workshops and leadership develop programs emphasize meaning: when we feel emotionally tied to the outcome, most of us will move mountains to make it happen.

  1. Accountability‘s definition, according to Merriam-Webster, is “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.” Sounds simple enough, right? A Forbes article adds to that definition, “…regardless of the situation or how fair it seems.

Unfairness – or my perception of it – is certainly a value which can set off my hot buttons in a heartbeat. And, if you’re like me, then you might also be tempted to use this occurrence as an excuse to deflect accountability. That’s when the seemingly modest definition above can seem anything but.

To that end, here are some helpful pointers to cultivate accountability in the workplace:

  • First, ask what does accountability look like for us personally? And to those on our team?
  • Second, consider how we can role model accountability to others around us.
  • Third, once we’ve defined what we want accountability to look like, encourage honest feedback from the team. Part of that includes facing those times when we ourselves fall short of our own ideals.

Lastly, it seems important to outline here the points that demonstrate to others that we fully own what we’re doing and are committed to accountability.

BOLDER Tip: We can leverage our network to deepen our practice of accountability. Doing so is the infusion of support and inspiration helpful to all of us. It’s one of the 8 steps to expand our leadership development (read more about that here).

Taking Ownership is a BOLDER Leadership Move

  1. BOLDNESS! Yep, there’s that word again.

Boldness doesn’t necessarily mean “fearless.” Fear pops up for all of us much of the time. That’s part of our human journey.  So, when we can accept our fears as part of being humans, thank them for wanting to protect us (they have their positive intention, after all!), and invite them to step to the side because this time around, we are trying a different approach, they tend to subside.

In fact, if our fear is of making mistakes, we can be comforted in knowing that mistakes are an important part of learning. Without our blunders along the way, we would likely not be as wise as we are today.

Moreover, ownership is what gives our leadership ship a stronger gust of wind so that we not only learn from our missteps, but we also get to our destination faster and more effectively.

When we can look at it in this way, we can also see Ownership as where it’s at.

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