Leadership is more about mental habits than physical ones. Leaders think differently, and it's that way of thinking that enables them to inspire others, take actions, and achieve great things.
Cultivate Ownership Thinking
An important part of leadership is ownership thinking. It's not about materialism, greed, or possessiveness; it's about seeing that your place in the world is to be a master of your circumstances, a positive force, affecting the world by your contributions, rather than being a passive victim of any situation.
Ownership thinking doesn't require a bold, heavy-handed approach; just the opposite, in fact. A leader who thinks in terms of ownership will look for ways to boost everyone around her. A leader will seek to build success for the whole team and the whole company, not just for his own particular set of tasks.
Ownership thinking is big-picture thinking. It's thinking about how your skills, specialties, and assignments fit into and support the overarching goals of the team and company, and striving for success beyond your own personal career trajectory.
Model Ownership Thinking
To help your team members start thinking like owners, do two things. First, model ownership thinking yourself. When you share projects, set goals, and assign tasks, talk through how the smaller pieces fit into the bigger picture. Talk about pushing for success for the client, or the whole department, or the whole company, rather than focusing on success for your team.
Equip for Ownership Thinking
Second, free your team members to act, speak, and think like owners. This means no micromanaging. No punishing those who take initiative, even if it's not perfectly planned or executed. No withholding pertinent information. No failing to communicate.
Don’t ask your team members to trust and follow you blindly; ownership thinking is the opposite of following blindly. Ownership thinking means that a person will gather all the pertinent information available, weigh the options against the big picture, make the best decision and move forward. If you want your people to think like leaders, you have to give them information, honest and open input, transparent goals and priorities, and the freedom to make decisions.
Reward Ownership Thinking
When you begin to trust your team members, and to equip them to think like owners, you'll see some changes. Don't be surprised if these changes take time, though. Be positive. Keep modeling. Keep handing out the freedom (or authority, if you prefer) required for each responsibility. When someone makes that proactive move forward, notice and reward it, even if the reward is simply a sincere word of thanks.
Don't Rush Ownership Thinking
Many people are trained, through childhood, education, and early career experience, to be the opposite of leaders: to be agreeable followers, to do their work without question, to obey the rules, and to trust the folks in authority. That type of training, however, stifles the leader in everyone. It will take a little time for your team to see that you're sincere, and that you're not going to punish them for taking the lead.
Consistent encouragement and sincere praise will go a long way toward smoothing the rough, slow road to cultivating leaders. It's a slow process, but don't be discouraged. If you're consistent, you'll end up with a team of dynamite, creative, ground-breaking people who love owning their work.