Radical Ownership: Why Taking Responsibility Can Be Your Leadership Superpower.

By: LUMO Leaders

- Publish On: March 9, 2023

It’s spring-ish here in Seattle, and I’m thinking about warmer weather and longer days because it has been a long, dark winter here in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to ruminating about the weather, this time of the year tends to get me thinking about leadership development and new ways to support my clients.

Coaches are known for asking great (ok, sometimes annoying) questions that help our clients think about things in a new way. Lately I’ve been focused on making the questions I ask succinct and even more powerful. While these questions sometimes have the potential to make my clients feel a wee bit uncomfortable, they almost always make them pause and think.

The question I’m having a lot of fun with right now is, “What can you be responsible for?”

Did reading that make you cringe? If so, it’s ok because it definitely did make one of my clients cringe this week.

Here’s how our conversation went.

My client is a successful, motivated, thoughtful woman, who was upset about how a project was being handled by her team. She was knee deep in a rant about who did and didn’t do what and how annoyed she was. I interrupted her and asked…

What can you be responsible for?


Client, with a puzzled face: ME? Nothing. This is all on them. They set an unrealistic deadline, communication wasn’t clear, no one really knew who was doing what.

Me: Ok. Got it. But what about you? What can you be responsible for?


Client: Ohhh…<pause> I see where you’re going with this…Well, I could have spoken up at the start about my concerns and offered some alternative ideas. I could have expressed my thoughts about the deadline and offered suggestions when I saw the communication mix ups. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to be wrong or have the team think I’m bossy. So I didn’t say anything. Shoot, I could have made a difference.


Client: Yep, I see it — there is a lot I can be responsible for.

Me: What does that change for you moving forward?

Client: I suddenly don’t feel so upset right now and I really want to support my team to turn this around. I see that my input matters. Next time I’ll lean forward and trust what I see.

So, reader? Thoughts? Would you have hung up on me if I asked you that question? If so, that means it really is a killer question.

Here at LUMO, we often refer to taking responsibility as taking ownership. What can we take ownership of? To be clear, when we talk about this we aren’t talking about taking blame. It’s about taking an honest look at the facts of what’s going on and what we did and didn’t do that had things turn out the way they did. Doing this helps us look at the situation with a growth mindset; it gives us the power to see what there is to learn and how things can go differently next time.

For a lot of us, looking at ownership is new and a bit out of our comfort zone. I know it was for me.  I mean, I love to point my finger across the room (virtual or real) and point out how things went wrong. I also like to silently stew when I don’t like the way things are going. But, if I ask myself “Where can I take ownership?” I often see that I don’t speak up and address my concerns, or I disappear or don’t fully follow through. That has an impact, and so much changes when I do things differently.

How about you?

What would be different if you took more ownership of your projects, relationships, life? It’s a big question and one we address throughout our newly created Women’s Leadership Program. Curious? Reach out – I’d love to tell you more.

PS. One thing that’s very important to add to any conversation about responsibility and ownership is that there are situations in which we are not expected to take ownership – if we’ve been a victim/survivor of a crime, experienced a significant trauma or been impacted by institutionalized racism. We are talking about ownership through the lens of leadership.

Keep Reading

Want more? Here are some other blog posts you might be interested in.