The most difficult and overwhelming time in my marriage was when my wife and I had our first daughter. I recognized that I was a father and the leader of my family, but I had no true sense of my role. My daughter needed nothing life-giving from me, so my meaningful interaction with her was limited, at best. I felt like the most I had to offer was entertainment — making silly faces and funny noises. I kept trying to find a rhythm and establish my place in our new family, but pushing harder simply led to exhaustion. A lack of clarity about my role as the father of a newborn brought frustration to my family and made me feel incompetent and helpless.
We only began to thrive when I learned that my most important role was to serve my wife so she could shine in her role. I took my position seriously. Once the expectations for my role became clear, the fog lifted and revealed the path I was seeking.
Clarifying your role by understanding the expectations is the first step on your pathway to ownership, but it is only half the battle. Your next move towards becoming a leader people want to follow is exceeding that role.
In Clay Scroggins’ book, How To Lead When You’re Not In Charge, he writes about how most organizations have “junk” closets. We even have them at home; they could take the form of a drawer or an entire room. One of the most common jobs for interns within the organization is to clean out that closet. Imagine yourself holding that position standing in front of the closet. The job description and expectations have been clearly communicated. This exact moment, before you touch a thing, is an opportunity.
Option one is cleaning the closet.
Option two is owning the closet.
The difference may seem subtle, but it is what separates leaders from employees. Cleaning the closet is knowing the job and getting the job done. Owning the closet is maximizing the potential for what you have been given. It is the attitude that your closet will be the closet of all closets!
Owning your role is the combination of clarifying expectations and exceeding them.
Here are some ways you can take ownership of your role, including examples of how you can start today!
Reread your job description or have a candid conversation with your supervisor, co-worker, peer, or spouse.
Make excellence the standard.
Write down at least one way to go the second mile in your current role.
Finish what you start.
Write down one step to help keep yourself and your team accountable.
Set up a recurring time to re-clarify or establish new expectations with your supervisor, partner, or spouse.