Learning & Development

What is ‘Ownership’?

It’s common in workplaces to hear people talk about “ownership.” Typically—and unfortunately—this is often in the context of people lacking ownership. But what do we mean when we say someone is (or isn’t) taking ownership over something?ownership
Over several posts, we’ll look at the concept of ownership, as it is extremely important in any workplace. First, in this post, we’ll define what we mean by ownership. In our second post, we’ll discuss why it’s so detrimental to organizations when ownership is lacking. Finally, we’ll talk about how companies and managers can instill ownership in their employees.
Ownership means being accountable for something and driving it to completion. It does not mean doing all the work, and it does not mean that escalating issues to superiors is off limits. What does it mean? Here, we look at three key components of ownership: accountability, initiative, and escalation.


Ownership means being accountable for a department, project, initiative, etc.,—whatever is being “owned.” It means that the owner is the person who takes responsibility for any shortcomings, even if they aren’t necessarily his or her own personal fault.
While others on the project may have specific—even critically important—roles, the owner is the one overseeing the entire effort as a whole.


“Taking ownership is about taking initiative. We take ownership when we believe that taking action is not someone else’s responsibility,” says Warren Tanner, editor of Be Like A Startup for Medium. This means driving a project to completion or driving a department toward the achievement of a goal.
Initiative means moving forward without explicit permission or direction from someone else. You’ve got this!


Ownership doesn’t mean that designated owners can and must resolve all issues that come up on their own. In fact, trying to do so can often derail a project.
An effective owner will do what is necessary to achieve the assigned goal; sometimes that includes seeking help from their superiors. This could include conveying a need for greater resources or to help resolve conflicts with other departments or staff.
Here, we’ve looked at what ownership is. In a follow-up post, we’ll talk about why a lack of ownership is so detrimental to an organization. Finally, in our last post on this topic, we’ll discuss how to instill a sense of ownership in your employees.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *