10/22/2012 05:08 pm ET Updated Dec 22, 2012

Why Pioneers Focus on Ownership Versus Leadership

The business world is chock full of "thought leaders;" people who exude leadership and organization, people who carry success in their back-pockets, people who others strive to become. But in today's burgeoning new economy -- one that more and more is based on short term results -- the idea of ownership over leadership is one that is slowly being realized by both individuals and corporations alike.

I once worked with a very knowledgeable quality engineer named Long, who also happened to hold multiple degrees in philosophy and theology -- something I found somewhat peculiar knowing the very technical nature of quality engineering. He was a lifelong learner, yet he always understood that people have inherent limits. One day as we talked about the company we worked at, he was explaining how each of us as individuals, no matter what our job title, are little more than contributors to a bigger picture. In that sense he expressed that, as such, we can only do so much. At that point, I thought of the concept of "ownership over leadership." The idea that someone who feels ownership to a task or plan gets reward from that task or plan, versus just completing the task and moving on.

In basic terms, ownership over leadership meant one thing to me; a leader leads others by control, while an owner leads others by example. A classic example is Steve Jobs of Apple. I regularly reference Apple because of it's rare ability to innovate in the face of being "too big to innovate." I saw Steve as an individual who leveraged a sense of ownership in what he did, and allowed others to go by his example.

People can see a leader leading by how he/she controls. People can see an owner "owning" what he/she does, and strive and imitate to be like that person.

Leaders have goals and endpoints; owners have passion -- in both the journey and the destination.

Everything that you do in life ultimately falls into either the leadership or ownership bucket. Getting gas and picking up milk at the grocery store are task-based, leadership type activities. But getting that gas at the cheapest price and figuring out the quickest route to the grocery store are ownership based because there is intent and creativity involved.

Are you a leader or an owner? Do you strive to just get things done, or do you think about how and why you're doing those things, as well as how doing those things makes you feel?

Personally, everything I do, I do with an "owner" mindset. I remind myself that every task has more than just a goal; that the journey towards the goal, much like the journey made by early pioneers, becomes the example of what others can do, going from mere task-finishers to ground breakers.

Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone. To put aside leadership and allow ownership to guide you. The results, no matter how big or small, will surprise you.