Leadership and Ownership
By: Randy Wolken, President & CEO

Owners just act differently.  We take care of what we own so much better than if we rent something.  When it is ours we truly care about it.  When it is someone else’s it is their responsibility. This is true in life – and at work.  Smart leaders want to create ownership, not accountability.

We read a lot about accountability – too much in my opinion. Leaders are told to hold people accountable for their responsibilities. When we do that – we still own it.  We want them to own it and not us.  Good leaders can tell the difference and work hard to keep the ownership with others.  When we do this as leaders, we get much better outcomes and greater satisfaction from our teams.

But, how do you create ownership and not accountability?

When we own something, we can use it the way we want to use it.  We invest in it.  We take care of it.  Think about how you treat your car versus a rental car – very differently I would bet.  Make the project, task, or new product line theirs and not yours.  Actively give them ownership responsibility – and don’t take it back.  Review expected outcomes with them – upfront. Give them broad guidelines.  Agree on deadlines.  Be clear who owns it.

The hardest thing for leaders to do is not take back ownership when the effort begins to fall behind or fail.  We want to rush in and save it.  It makes us feel important and seems to fit our job description. But, it doesn’t.  It only makes us the real owners and lets the former owners distance themselves from the hard work of getting the effort back on track.  As a good leader, resist taking back ownership with all your strength. It will pay off in both outcomes and satisfaction of your team.

Finally, make sure you compliment and reward success of the team owners. It encourages them to take on the next project, product, or change task.  Good ownership outcomes beget the next good ownership outcomes.  It’s a virtuous cycle that provides great results.

Are you the kind of leader who leads owners or renters?  Do you seek ownership and not accountability?  How could you model ownership and not rob ownership from others?  As a leader, we need to constantly check in on how we are leading others.  Let’s create organizations of owners and not team members who we hold accountable for what they neither own nor invest in.  Life is better with ownership!

Looking for more? Download my Amazon Bestseller, Present-Future Leader:  How to Thrive in Today’s Economy.