Many of us desire freedom and the option to do whatever we want and have control over our lives. Well, here’s the surprising truth: real freedom comes from taking full responsibility, not relinquishing it. The key here is to look at “responsibility” not as your roles and burdens, but a combination of 2 words: “response-ability”. In fact, this statement could be the single most powerful concept that sets you free:
You have 100% control and full ability to choose how you respond to any situation, however good or bad.
No one except yourself can decide how to think, feel and react to events in your life. And, you always have a choice–you can choose to focus on problems or opportunities, to blame or to empathize, to complain or to take constructive action. The most successful and inspiring people around us achieved what they did by taking full responsibility of their lives and actions.
So, what does it really mean to “take full responsibility” and what are some concrete ways to do so in real life, individually and as a leader? That’s what we’ll look at in this article.
Take Charge of Yourself
In “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, the 1st of the 7 habits is to “Be Proactive”, i.e. to take full responsibility for your life and choices. Stephen Covey breaks it down further with a few tips:
• Take the initiative: No matter what your circumstances are, or what happens in life, you have total freedom to choose your responses. When you take the initiative to be response-able, you empower ourselves to create your situations and not vice versa.
• Choose proactive language: Use proactive language like “I can”, “I will”, “I choose to”. Avoid language like “I can’t”, “I have to”…
• Focus on your Circle of Influence. Focus your energy on your Circle of Influence, i.e. areas you can do something about. One area that is fully within your control is who you want to “be”, i.e. how you think and act. This is opposed to the Circle of Concern, i.e. areas you have little or no control over, e.g. national economy, the weather.
Take 100% Ownership as a Leader
In “Extreme Ownership“, retired Navy SEAL officers Willink and Babin break down how to translate this concept into a team setting, i.e. how you can lead your team to exceptional performance, and inculcate a culture based on ownership and mutual accountability. In a nutshell, a true leader takes 100% ownership of everything in his domain, including the outcome and everything that affects it. This means that when something goes wrong, instead of finding excuses or blaming others, you must put aside your ego, assume full responsibility for the outcome, and review what you must do differently as a leader to create success. If an under-performer is dragging the team down, it’s your role as a leader to train and mentor the person. If people aren’t doing what they should, it’s your responsibility to clarify the mission and action plan, get people’s commitment and equip them to perform their roles. They help to break this down further into inter-related but vital aspects of leadership and teamwork, e.g. what it means to seek mission clarity and keep things simple so people can understand/execute/improvise, why you must decentralize command, manage up and down the command chain etc. [See the key ideas in the graphic below]. Some of these may seem simple or obvious, but each piece adds up to determine if you have a close-knit, high-performing team that drives itself to deliver.
Taking full ownership may sound scary and difficult, but you can easily take your first steps using any of the tips above. As you become increasingly response-able for your outcomes, you’ll feel empowered to realize how much you’re truly in control of your own destiny.
Don’t take our word for it. Put these tips into action and take charge of your own path and results! Feel free to check out The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People book summary and the Extreme Ownership book summary for more tips. Take ownership of your learning and subscribe to get access to all our book summaries!