Leadership Is More Than Just A Title, It’s About Taking Ownership In The Things You Do
Who doesn’t like being in control? Or having a lot more power than others? Or have a say in everything? Probably the words that might pop up in our minds right now would be a ‘leader’ or a ‘boss’ because being a leader or a boss enables you to have all that has been stated above. But the biggest misconception in many people’s minds is that ‘boss’ is a synonym for ‘leader’. While they both might indicate positions of power and influence, the kind of power and influence one carries greatly varies from the other.
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
– Abraham Lincoln
How one exercises the power given sets the leaders and bosses apart. Because the truth is, leadership is more than just a title like “CEO” or “Manager”. It is about your ability to take ownership of the things you do.
1. They take ownership of their responsibility to lead those under them.
“It’s not you against me, it’s us against the problem”. We often hear this quote used for people in romantic relationships. However, I believe it works the same for leaders and those they lead too! When conflict and screw-ups arise, leaders don’t play the blame game. While it is vital they identify the source of the problem and how it may be caused, they take ownership of their responsibility to lead those under them.
I recall back to the time when I screwed up in the process of managing one of our club’s major community outreach programs. However, I felt comfortable and confident to admit my mistakes to my club president knowing she was a leader and not a boss to me. She knew even if it was my responsibility to solve the problem, it was her responsibility to guide and lead me. Thus, instead of ‘who’s fault is this?’ being thrown around, I saw her take charge and explain to me how I can resolve this and how I can avoid this in the future.
2. They take ownership of their directions for those under them.
Bosses boss you around. They throw tasks at you and expect you to get them done by hook or crook. There wouldn’t be a second thought on whether it is even possible to accomplish it, but just that if you are a good employee or a team, you’ll find a way to get it done. However, leaders take ownership of the directions that they give to those under them. Often you will realise that the directions and decisions of a leader come from their understanding of the feasibility of a task. They give you the freedom to work by your own rules while also sharing their suggestions on how you can go about it. You can sense how they have been thoughtful and resourceful before they direct you to get something done or before they make vital decisions.
Let’s come back to the example of my club’s president. As the professional development officer of the club, it was my responsibility to conduct weekly meetings. It took me a lot of trial and error to figure out the best and most effective format for these meetings, but my club’s president was in for the ride with me. She allowed me the freedom to experiment with what aligns best with the club’s mission and vision while always offering feasible suggestions on improvement which were all clearly well-thought through.
3. They are accountable and own their decisions.
Leaders operate knowing that their decisions not only impact them but the whole team, organization or company. Thus, they perceive any decisions they make as a collective decision that takes everyone and everything under them into account. This includes analysing the capabilities of those under them together with their capacities, as leaders don’t function as a separate entity but rather on behalf of their teams.
This is especially vital as the downside of not doing this is a higher possibility for plans and projects to go adrift. This may in turn lead to not only problems in regards to tasks being carried out, but also negatively impact the dynamic of the group itself where it invites blame games, bruised egos, scattered focus on goals and individual differences that cause disputes.
4. They take ownership of their influence.
Being a leader also means setting an example; as the saying goes, “Lead by example”. While you can explain to someone how you want them to behave or function, setting an example by your own actions has greater influence.
For instance, leaders are not excepted from making mistakes themselves. However, how they approach their mistakes influences how things progress from the point of conflict. Bosses don’t admit their mistakes. They feel more comfortable throwing the blame on someone else and expect others to clean the mess. However, when a leader makes a mistake, they take ownership of their mistakes. They not only admit it but work collectively to correct it. This teaches their team to do the similar, own their mistakes and collectively work to resolve them.
While anyone can be a boss, not everyone can be a leader. However, it is not something you’re born with either. It’s a skill that all of us can develop given throughout our lives, we are given many chances to lead. It’s vital we lead in a way that leaves a lasting positive impact on others. And these ways include taking ownership of our responsibility to lead others, our directions, our decisions and lastly, our influence.
For further reading, check out this article about the top 4 reasons we should learn leadership skills, even if we’re not leaders ourselves!