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Lead Others in Taking Ownership of Responsibilities

CHICAGO — Getting employees to assume ownership with respect to their responsibilities starts at the top. The ability of senior managers to demonstrate they are leaders by recognizing the importance of recognition and encouragement plays a vital role in driving employees and programs to assume ownership. But some managers impose an external, often-limiting structure on employees, which can result in low morale and wreak havoc with expectations.

The world we live in today has undergone rapid, disruptive changes. What were once accepted norms are being thrown out the window! New ideas, working philosophy and creed are replacing the old. This means that your employability and survivability in your organization are based on your ability to take ownership of what you are doing. Even if you are employed by someone else, you are as much the owner as your employer. Taking ownership of what you do internalizes that part of the job and energizes you.

People working within organizations are sometimes simply running around and doing things the right way. They are efficient but not really effective. They keep to organizational protocols and practices and do not question their validity or the need to change. After a time, whatever they’re doing becomes a sort of “acceptable practice” and a general state of inertia sets in. If you’ve reached this kind of state, it’s about time that you question your values, identify your vision, and try to figure out whether you are doing the right thing by staying on or if you should move on.

The traditional approach of long-term employability is being challenged today. Many organizations now offer shorter contract terms so they have the option of selecting and keeping those employees that they feel are assets. Not knowing whether your organization wants you after your contract runs out could create a sense of dissonance and lack of conviction on your part.

If you feel that you can be an asset to your organization and are keen to stay on, take ownership of your job. Change your paradigm from the traditional “I work for the organization” to one in which you believe “the organization is working for me.” Learn to see yourself as the owner, no matter where you stand in your organization. Achieving this mental perspective will automatically allow you to start to contribute effectively.

But what traits are essential to create a sense of responsibility?


When we buy any item, we want to ensure that it is reliable. We do this for one simple reason—so it will serve our purpose and not give us problems. Likewise, reliability is a personal quality that you should develop. When you are reliable, you become your own boss. You will also become an indispensable asset of your organization, assuming it recognizes what you do and how you do it. You will be someone whom the organization feels can help drive it to success.


Learn to take responsibility for your own actions. Respond to a situation rather than react to it. Taking responsibility will show that you are a person of high integrity and conviction. Others will look up to you and value your opinion and the decisions that you’ve got to make.

You can develop this quality by volunteering to take on a certain task rather than waiting to be asked. Sometimes, people who feel they aren’t wanted wait to be asked under the belief it will elevate them to a higher level of importance. This is certainly a quality of a person suffering from an inferiority complex. You don’t have to feel that way. Dive into your workload with passion and give it your best. Do this regularly and people in your organization will take notice, one way or another.

Taking responsibility generates confidence and boosts self-esteem. When you feel this way, you inevitably develop the next quality that will make you personally successful.


This will ensure that you are not easily swayed by what others say about your organization and you. Learn to be open to constructive criticism that allows you to self-analyze and improve personal and professional qualities. But don’t fall prey to your organization’s “emotional werewolves” who tend to zap your sense of self-awareness and make you feel as if you are wasting your time with the company.

You can become more open and smart by clearly establishing your goals and synchronizing them with organizational goals. If you are unable to do this, it may mean that you can’t see what your organization is working toward; this will definitely lead to a clash. It might be a good idea to move on. But if you believe that you can change your mindset and work in sync with your organization’s vision, then you need to develop the next quality.


You can lose sight of your goals and purpose in life if you find yourself stuck in a rut and thinking that you’re just plain unlucky. This is nothing more than a negative state of mind. Get tough and make your own luck. Learn how to work within limitations and maximize your productivity. I’ve never heard of any organization that has abundant resources. One way or another, there will be some sort of shortage. See what you can do to exploit the resources available at your disposal. Think creatively and make sure that whatever you have works for you.

The fact that you are still employed is a testament to the fact that your organization believes in your ability. It is up to you to drive your organization from wherever you are.

Leaders empower their staff to take on additional responsibilities. Leaders should also maintain an open environment that allows communication to flourish so that everyone knows their job. And they should develop a habit of connecting emotionally so that the staff sees them not only as their superior but someone whom they can trust and rely upon.

Lastly, if you consider yourself a manager, never be critical of an employee in front of others. Not only will you look like an idiot, doing so will distinguish you as a poor manager who cares only for yourself. Learn to roll up your sleeves and work with your employees, not against them.

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Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].