Taking ownership is accepting responsibility for actions or behavior. It's pretty easy to take ownership when something good happens--everyone wants credit for that. The challenge comes when bad things happen. Who's going to own up to that?
Taking ownership can be difficult when you or your team falls short. It's hard to admit that you aren't perfect, you make mistakes, and you messed up this time. Accepting responsibility for failure can be especially hard for over-achievers who define themselves by their success. When you make a mistake, you may wonder What will others think when they find out that I failed? Will I be defined by this mistake?
In order to take ownership, you must admit your shortcomings. When you shift the blame to someone else or make excuses for the failure, that is not taking ownership. When you take ownership, you are saying, "I did this. It's my fault. I messed up."
Owning up to your failures may be difficult and uncomfortable, but it will prove to be beneficial in the long run. Accepting responsibility for your actions saves time and energy for yourself and those around you. Instead of pointing figures, investigating who or what caused the failure, and causing conflict among team members, time can be spent resolving the situation. Taking ownership demonstrates your commitment to improvement. When you take ownership, you are saying to your team, "I will learn from this so that I can do better in the future." There is nothing to improve on if you are perfect, so admitting that you are not perfect and striving to become better at your job shows that you are growth-oriented. People respect leaders who are down-to-earth enough to admit their mistakes and do better in the future. Your peers and those you lead will respect your ownership of your mistakes.
We are human, so it's inevitable that we are going to fail at something. It is how we respond to that failure that defines our character and strength as a leader. Admitting that we have fallen short is the first step toward improvement and growth. Teams will thrive when all members know that they are growing and improving together.