Taking Ownership as a Leader
Being a leader, whether you are a formal leader, the boss, or a parent, comes with responsibilities. Most of us understand this on a broad level – to be a leader means to be a role model, set an example, etc. But, what does it really mean to be responsible or to take responsibility? It means taking ownership.
Jim Rohn said, “Character isn’t something you were born with and can’t change, like your fingerprints. It’s something you weren’t born with and must take responsibility for forming.”
Taking responsibility as a leader means accepting responsibility for developing your own character and then helping someone else develop theirs. John C. Maxwell stated, “Reaching your God-given potential requires taking responsibility for yourself and your life. It means taking an active leadership role with yourself.”
If you don’t accept that responsibility, you won’t be able to become very successful as a leader or highly effective in any area of life for that matter. Let’s look at two ways accepting responsibility improves leadership and increases influence:
RESPONSIBILITY TO OTHERS
As a leader and/or parent, spouse, co-worker, friend, etc., your first responsibility is toothers. This is the foundation for influence. This means leadership of others starts with leadership of self. You can’t lead anyone else at a high level if you aren’t able to lead yourself well first because you can’t give someone what you don’t have.
Leadership isn’t something you do. It’s something you are. And, it starts inside you. We all have influence on some level, with some people. If we want to increase our influence to a higher level, impact more people, and create a greater legacy in the lives of others, we must start by accepting the responsibility for striving to be better ourselves. We must work to develop leadership qualities within ourselves first.
The responsibility to others comes when you are ready to say, “I’ll work on me first, so I can help you.” Until and unless you are ready to accept that responsibility, you won’t be able to become a very successful leader.
Would you prefer to choose your vacation destination based on the advice of a tour guide or a travel agent? Advice from someone who has actually been there is much more valuable than advice from someone who has only seen the brochure. Being an effective leader of yourself before leading others is much the same.
RESPONSIBILITY FOR OTHERS
Although the first responsibility is foundational, and you can’t influence many without it, the second responsibility is perhaps where you actually build more influence. Accepting responsibility is a give and take. First, you give: knowledge, credit when things go right, respect, love, help, coaching, opportunities and experiences, freedom, and through delegation, even responsibilities.
In other words, you nurture others and help them grow.
And, then you take: the blame, the responsibility when things don’t go well, the burdens, the responsibility for removing roadblocks, their input, their feedback, and the time to listen. In other words, you become accountable. In the words of Jocko Willink, retired Navy SEAL officer and author of Extreme Ownership, you take ownership. (see his inspiring TEDx Talk here)
Rudy Giuliani wrote about this in his book, Leadership,and said, “More than anyone, leaders should welcome being held accountable. Nothing builds confidence in a leader more than their willingness to take responsibility for what happens during their watch.”1In fact, he summarizes his entire leadership philosophy with a two-word sign that sits on his desk. It says, “I’M RESPONSIBLE.”
The leader who will accept responsibility to and for others on the team, in the organization, or even in the family will very quickly increase his or her influence.
Ask yourself how you can accept or ask for additional responsibility in either your professional life or your personal life. At work, it could mean asking to take the lead on a new project or volunteering to lead a focus group. At church, it could mean starting a study group, so you can bring together a group of couples who want to increase their influence with their families. At home, it could mean becoming the leader by setting a good example with your food choices and helping your children or spouse do the same.
Accepting responsibility for everything in your life is the key to being able to change anything in your life. Accepting more responsibility in any area of your life will allow you to develop greater influence in that area of your life. More responsibility equals greater influence and control.
Like many, Ria faced adversity in life. Ria was sexually abused by her father from age 12 – 19, forced to play the role of his wife, and even shared with other men. Desperate to escape, she left home at 19 without a job, a car, or even a high school diploma.
Today, Ria is a motivational leadership speaker, TEDx Speaker, and author of 10 books. Ria shares powerful leadership principles and tools of transformation from her journey to equip and empower women, helping them realize, optimize, and maximize their leadership potential.