Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Best Leaders Share One Quality

There is a type of leadership that isn’t much talked about. In spite of this fact many enterprises succeed because of it and others fail because of its lack.

I call it ownership leadership.

What is it?
Why is it important?
Where do we look for it?

If something is carried through to a successful completion it is usually because key people have taken ownership to make it happen. We see it all around us.

A new business owner is willing to do what it takes to make their fledgling enterprise successful. They make the investment of time, money, expertise and energy … usually lots of time and energy. They are passionately involved in every decision. They are willing to wear many hats to get the job done.

Projects that serve communities often have highly dedicated people. They serve up burgers, plant flowers, start early and stay late. And the list goes on.

  • Ministry leaders who are full of compassion for the people around them

  • Parents who are absolutely dedicated to having their children reach their potential

  • Citizens who feel so strongly the need for change that they run for election

  • Youth organization leadership who spend endless weekends and evenings serving kids

  • Volunteer coaches who collect, taxi, mentor and cheer on this year’s team

Alice and I practiced it. For 10 years we set aside daily business and provided leadership for a youth and family camp. We adopted it as our own. We took care of it as we did our own home and property. We put in the hours to make sure it looked good and worked well to accomplish our mandate. We worked with and felt for the hundreds of staff who came and went.

We took pride in the camp. It was a reflection of us and what we felt the organization stood for. We wanted to be ready for inspection at any time. We felt we had been given a stewardship that we were accountable for and we took that very seriously.

If it required starting early, sometimes very early, that’s what happened. If it meant being up late, and in the summer it did, that’s what happened. We took ownership because we believed in the purpose and loved the people it served.

Ownership treats it as if it were your own. Ownership isn’t because one has to, but because one wants to. Ownership is powerful. It makes things happen. Ownership is loyal.

You probably know wonderful stories of men and women who were ready to give themselves for something they believed in. We all have those causes. And when engaged we throw ourselves into the task. We take ownership.

If you are in leadership, find people who are willing to take ownership of an area. They don’t wish to reign as supreme ruler, but they are ready to step up to the plate, work with others and reach toward inspiring goals.

All too often we search for a warm body to carry out a task. They work away at their job. They have to. It’s required. But their heart isn’t in it. Their passion isn’t engaged. They didn’t step up and say, “Pick me, pick me.” The warm body approach is one way, but there are better ways.

1.    Give jobs to people who have a passion to do them
2.    Take on the relatively unknown person who steps forward with good ideas
3.    Don’t take just anyone. Ferret out any hidden agendas
4.    Know the strengths of your people and challenge them to rise to the occasion
5.    Don’t be so quick to fill a position to get a project completed. Wait for the right person
6.    Be very clear in where you are going and how you wish them to get there

Ownership leadership is responsible for much of the good you see come out of small nonprofit voluntary organizations. It may be harder to detect in a for-pay environment but it is there also. Identify those people and keep them.

An objective, a plan and engaged passion is powerful. Never underestimate the value of finding the passionate person or driving forward with those dreams that engage your own deep sense of ownership.

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