Great Leaders Own Everything
The first challenge that most leaders have is that they do not “own” everything. They are busy saying, “There are variables that are not in my control. I don’t own variables. I may influence them, I don’t control them.”
In the military, the West Point DNA that I have is this: you own ALL the variables- you even “own the weather.” Why such “unreasonableness?” Because you are responsible to get a mission done and bring everybody home. The stakes are very, very high in that setting. That’s why extraordinary leaders are created there. Dangers are high, and people step up to these extraordinary stakes. They step up to make sure extraordinary things happens in extraordinarily difficult environments. It happens that way as the foundation stone of real leadership. You. Own. Everything.
Secondly, think about this real life metaphor: whose responsibility is learning, the student or the teacher’s? Does the teacher present the material, present it well, do a great job, and the student just didn’t learn? Or, is it the student’s job to learn. Good teacher/ bad teacher, the student owns what they learn. If they don’t, do we look at the student and ask why didn’t they learn, because they’re lazy or they’re undisciplined or they’re rebellious or they’re not focused?
Well, if you’re a West Point leader on a military mission, why didn’t they come back? Whose fault is that? It’s always the leader’s job to bring everyone back. It’s always the teacher’s job to teach.
Now, I understand that the students have an impact and you want to teach accountability to the students. I get that, but the underlying psychology for great leaders is to ensure that the student learns, it is the Teacher who owns this… and this challenges a lot of people’s thought processes.
If they’re lazy, undisciplined, unfocused, or they’re slow or they’re not good in math, don’t great teachers still teach people who hate math, and they teach them math because that’s what great teachers do – they inspire the worst, unlikely students to excel. But, if you believe it is only your job to teach, and not your job that the student LEARNS, you will be missing some upper range to your Greatness.
You have to begin to own everything.
In your job today, what do you own and what do you consider out of your sphere of responsibility? Do you say you can’t own it because of the customer pricing, market conditions, or how things show up?
What in your child’s behavior do you not own?
This is a critical foundation stone. If you’re a leader you own it all. (as a counterpoint, I would not make this point with “managers.”)
So now when what was previously out of your sphere and you move it there, it doesn’t mean that the weather is always perfect for you. It also means sometimes the mission just doesn’t get done and/or sometimes the mission gets done and you don’t bring everybody back. But every leader worth his or her salt begins the mission planning process with, “It’s my responsibility to do every piece of this, and I don’t care what the obstacles are, it’s my job to overcome them even when they’re out of my control.”
You. Own. Everything.