A strong bias towards ownership is important in org culture. The problem is, folks often over-index on ‘I own this area, so I’m going to nail it!’ vs. ‘I am an owner on behalf of the entire company and need to do the right thing for our customers!’. The key is to balance these.
Amazon’s definition tries to make this tension apparent by explicitly stating ownership is broader than themselves or their team:
Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job”.
Owners drive results and feel a deep responsibility for them. If things are late, the numbers are weak, or a failure occurs, owners don’t blame others. Owners focus on finding out what went wrong and how to ensure the date gets pulled in, the numbers improve, or the failure can never occur again.
Owners are experts at delegating. There’s a big difference between telling people what to do and helping people know what the right thing to do is. Great owners are experts at the latter. Great owners scale by bringing others along with them.
Owners get their hands dirty. And elbows. They pitch in and do the grunt work when necessary. They lead by example, routinely demonstrating no task is beneath them.
Owners don’t lick cookies. If they assert they are going to build something or deliver some result, they do it. The corollary of this is, owners are effective at managing their time and thus frugal at taking on new responsibilities.
Owners pay attention to the details (because details matter) and they hold others accountable for getting the details right.
Owners get direct satisfaction when the product has high quality and feel personally ashamed when there are quality problems.
Owners avoid saying “they or them” when referring to other teams. Instead, they realize it is their own responsibility to build a bridge with the other team.
Owners recognize their management can’t know all the details, but needs to and they proactively educate ‘up’.
Owners are effective agents of change. Once they understand the vision for a change, even if they disagree with it, they get on board and commit to helping the change happen.
An organization with a strong culture of ownership enables leaders to do more, faster, and independently.
One of the few “leadership” books I regularly recommend is Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink. This is by far the best guide I’ve encountered on ownership. Read it.