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Thought Leadership

Adam Bryant

Want to set yourself apart? Own your job.

December 12, 2022

For the ambitious employee, a deep sense of accountability is the one thing that matters most.

“The most important thing….”

It’s hard to beat those four words for drawing people into discussions on big topics like life, career, and leadership. If somebody says she has cut through the noise to find the one thing that matters most, we can’t help but listen. But how helpful is an answer like “Follow your passion”?  A lot of people don’t know what their passion is when they are starting their career, and those who do probably don’t need to be told to follow it.

This is why I’ve generally steered clear of the “one thing” game. Simplifying complexity is an art form, but such an exercise can easily fall into the trap of oversimplification. And yet, through all my years of asking leaders about the X factors that separate employees, I have wondered what quality actually makes someone stand out and get that promotion.

Here’s my vote: an extreme sense of accountability and ownership of the job. People with these qualities figure out how to get something done, even if the path to success is unclear. When things get tough, they don’t point fingers or throw up their hands in frustration or complain that something isn’t fair or is too hard. Ownership is not just about having a strong work ethic—it’s about having a sense of responsibility to follow through and deliver.

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The ExCo Group’s Adam Bryant wrote this article for his column in Strategy + Business.