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Be an owner

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- "All Airmen are leaders," is a misused slogan. I am a very blessed to have a father in my life who has shared many of his experiences and life lessons. He told me, "A leader, whether in the military or private sector, owns their respective areas and is responsible for teaching those that follow." That is the difference between a good follower and a good leader.

Be an owner.

I recently read "Turn the Ship Around," by retired Navy Capt. David Marquet. The book's premise involves turning an organization from the usual military organizational model of Lead-Follow into a Lead-Lead construct. He sought to implant ownership within the organization at a lower level so that the ship's successes and failures were not directly tied to who was at the helm of the ship but the result of the team's effort and everyone taking responsibility. One tool he used was a shift in verbiage from, "I would like to" to "I intend to." This subtle word shift enabled him to retain operational responsibility yet simultaneously convey lower level functional ownership.

Developing owners in our organizations is a huge challenge. Again, I was blessed to have had a phenomenal boss during my time in Air Force Special Operations Command. He provided me vague direction which frustrated me in many ways. Nearly four years later and now into my second squadron command, I now understand the impact of those lessons. He forced me out of my comfort zone (i.e., awaiting his direction) and forced me to become self-reliant. He was teaching me ownership.
Be a teacher.

During one of my 30 CES flight's recent training events, I listened to the team's use of the phrase "I am going to" more than once in their communication with the team leader. At the conclusion of this evolution, the team leader debriefed the team's specific tactics, techniques and procedures for future response improvement. His leadership allowed the team to execute their mission without interference because the team conveyed specific cause and effect action analysis for their intended actions -- they owned their area.

The most compelling part of the debrief was an offhand comment he made. He said, "Do not ever forget, you are the expert on scene. Your responsibility is to provide an expert assessment of the situation, recommendations for action, and guidance to solve the situation so that the incident commander can accept responsibility for the actions you will have to make. Provide all the details of what you are going to do because acceptance of responsibility is his and is based on the expert inputs you provide." Here was a true leader exhibiting an owner-teacher mentality for his trainees. He clearly owned his function but more importantly he was teaching his subordinates.
As part of your team, are you exhibiting an owner mentality, or are you just following a leader's direction?

Great leaders are those that instill ownership down the organization so that the success of the organization is tied to the team's effort, not an individual. For me, I go back to my dad's guidance. Leaders own their areas and teach those who come after them. Are you a leader?