Leadership means ownership


Accountability is a concept used time and time again when defining ideal leadership, but when typically used in addressing and leading a workforce, it can easily be interpreted or misinterpreted as a benchmark tool for doling out punishment or an avenue to determine who is culpable for the mishap.


Even in recent political discussions this election year, we hear so much about accountability and at the pit of the debate. What is really being questioned is “Who is at fault?”


When we say leaders should be more accountable or we’re going to hold someone accountable, what are we really saying? Someone has to go down for this thing that just exploded. Someone has to step up and pay for the misdeed. Ultimately, someone has some serious explaining to do.


Whether it’s at the top or the bottom, when the word accountability begins creeping deeper and deeper into our respective organizations, it can easily make  people fearful of what’s to come and how things are about to change and reorganize. Personally, my leadership style and philosophy hinges on the concept of ownership. It contains some of the same elements of accountability but yet it’s very different.


It is imperative a workforce believes, understands and buys into the model of ownership as it is one that can permeate a work culture and transform it from good to great. Ownership means I assert an appropriate level of autonomy and independence regarding my tasks and priorities, as it pertains to meeting the mission. It implies I’m perfectly capable to map out the plans and milestones on this project and ensure it is completed with accuracy, efficiency and integrity.


On an even more personal note, Ownership implies the work I’m crafting and presenting is a direct reflection of me, my work ethic, my knowledge, and my experience.


The most logical question one might ask is, “Well okay, as a leader, how do I get my folks to accept the idea of Ownership?” My answer to that is embedded in a web of complexity because we all know the following is not an easy charge. Fight for the needed resources and if you can’t attain them, creatively generate options and solutions to the very real shortages of assets your workforce faces.


Implement avenues of recognition in any way you can, whether public or private. Never miss an opportunity to acknowledge outstanding work and unwavering commitment to the core values of our organization. Grow your future leaders and invest in their potential and passion by offering challenges to stretch, propel and expose them to unprecedented heights. As with any relationship, personal or professional, communicate with intention and clarity, setting expectations early on to carefully determine which battles are worth the fight.


Ownership means I’m a part of what I’m building, I don’t just get paid for it. I created it, therefore, ask me how it works, inform me when something goes wrong, let me re-work the structural and strategic deficiencies. Whether my work product receives rave reviews or it misses the mark, it is my creation so hold me responsible. I own it.