Taking Ownership

There is a reoccurring theme that’s present for me at the moment from all the varied places I’ve been receiving input.  It’s there in the books I’m reading.  It’s there in the videos I’m watching on LinkedIn and in the links that awesome people are sending me.  It’s there in the conversations I’m having, and the resources we’re enthusiastically sharing with each other.

That theme is that any one of us can stand where we are and take ownership.  Any one of us can stand where we are and lead.  Any one of us can make a positive change from our current position that will impact those around us and send out energetic ripples that empower others to make movement too.

I had a conversation this last weekend about the book written by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, two U.S. Navy SEAL officers who led the most highly decorated special operations unit of the Iraq War.  Their book, “Extreme Ownership” uses their war experience to outline powerful leadership principles from the battlefield, and how they can be applied to life and business.  Whilst it is certainly an activator when your life and those of the men and women around you are on the line, it doesn’t necessarily mean things go perfectly and there aren’t lessons to learn.  The number one principle here is taking ownership of everything that is a part of your life.  The good, the bad, the complicated.  Humbling your ego, because taking ownership when things go wrong is hard, and leading by example so that the rest of the team have somewhere to step up to.  In this short clip, Jocko highlights that when you take ownership, it starts to spread throughout the greater team.

Another input this week which I’ve watching on LinkedIn and received by email from a valued team member, is Simon Sinek’s short video on the fact that leadership has nothing to do with rank.  He speaks about the fact that some people at the top of organisations are not leaders we’re inspired to follow, and that leaders can exist anywhere within a structure purely because someone decides to step up.  He says,

“I know many people with no formal rank and no formal authority, who’ve taken the choice to look after the person to the left of them, and look after the person to the right of them, and we would follow them anywhere.  We call you “leader” not because you’re at the top, but because you went first, because you took the risk to head towards the danger.  You took the risk to express uncertainty.  You took the risk to ask for help. … You led by example.”

The thread is similar.

Anyone can lead, from the exact position they’re already in, purely by deciding to take ownership of everything that exists in their life, and by taking the steps to demonstrate their ownership of it – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Leadership doesn’t rely on someone else to do it first – by definition, leadership leads the way.  Leadership doesn’t pick what looks attractive and achievable today, it takes the whole basket with both hands.

As I mentioned above, and as you’ll have heard in Jocko’s video clip, taking the risk to lead means taking control of your ego (the part of you that would like to protect you and would rather you didn’t take on risk or ownership of anything adverse, especially if it can find a reason to explain why it’s not your fault).  Leadership is a humbling experience which means we must get out of our own way first.  Leading from where we currently stand means looking at everything that surrounds us directly and making the choice that we have influence over those things within our direct or partial control.  Whether they are positive or negative.  Whether we made them so or not.  Without assigning blame, and without assigning ownership to anyone other than ourselves.  Taking everything that exists in our space with both hands and deciding to take a step forward with it.

The most powerful and growing teams I’ve worked with are that way because normal people stepped up into roles of leaderships from where they stood.  It didn’t matter what their title was.  It didn’t matter what their job description was.  They took ownership of what they had in their hands, and thereby inspired others around them to do the same.  More often than not, these teams are led by leaders who set that example.  They take ownership.  They take ownership of everything in their hands, and they communicate their intentions and their outcomes, even when it’s not pretty.

Keeping their team informed doesn’t leave them any room to hide, but it ensures their team feel safe because they can focus on what they know is happening, rather than expending their energy on trying to figure out what they can’t see coming.  These leaders put their heads down and their energy into taking ownership, rather than just direction operations from a safe distance and height.  They get their hands dirty.  They get down in the trenches, and they fight with their men and women.

Leadership can happen from where ever you stand.  No matter what has passed or what currently exists, no matter what your rank or title.  If you’re prepared to take full, extreme, ownership of everything that is in your hands – no excuses, not reassignment of blame, no ducking – then the chances are high that you’ll create a ripple that inspires others to take ownership of their part too.  Taking ownership is a risk.  Taking ownership is empowered.  Taking ownership is moving forward, regardless of who else has decided not to.  Not at the expense of those around us, but in service to those around us.  Leadership can happen from where you stand.  It’s yours to step into today.

by Christen Killick

August 17th, 2020

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