What do you do differently in a hotel than you would in your own home? (Get your mind out of the gutter!)  If you’re like most people, you probably keep the room nice and cool, leave the lights on, don’t make the bed and maybe even leave your towels on the floor.  Why would you do those things in a hotel if they aren’t the things you are likely to do in your home? It is because you don’t own it.

Have you ever wondered why some people walk by a piece of trash and don’t pick it up, or why others seem to give the bare minimum at work when you know they are capable of so much more?  It’s for much of the same reason.

When we own something we tend to take better care of it.  When it is ours, we want to make sure we treat it right.  In your personal and professional life, do you rent or own?  Do you take ownership of relationships, projects, problems, and solutions? Do you own the choices you make each day?  I know on a good day, I take complete ownership.  On a bad day, it’s just easier to rent.

When I catch my kids doing something they shouldn’t be doing, and I call them on it, what do you think their first reaction is?  You guessed it.  They typically get defensive, blame someone else or make excuses.  I was working with a client last week, and it was interesting to hear her describe her co-workers the same way.  When I asked if she was taking ownership of the situation, her response was, “Why should I have to?  They (co-workers) don’t! ”

At what point, do we take ownership of our lives, regardless of others’ choices? Many of us pride ourselves on being responsible, but is that the same thing as taking ownership?

This raises an interesting question that I’m hoping you can help me answer.   If you have a moment to leave a comment, I’d love to know your thoughts:

What is the difference between responsibility and ownership?


  1. Responsibility may presuppose a moral compas while ownership implies investment into something peceived to be worthy.

    BTW I love your columns especially when you talk about your son because i have a similar situation with my daughter. Keep up the good work.

    • I would define the following as:

      Responsibility is something I have to do, because it is assingned to me.

      Ownership is something I want to do because it makes me feel better about myself.

  2. Responsibility means it’s my job to get it done or make sure it get’s done. Ownership mean the same except that I take a personal interest in the task and it’s results.

  3. I do take ownership. I take my work and personal life very seriously. It bothers me that other people do not do that and prefer to lay the blame on others. My kids fight all the time about things like “I didn’t make that mess, why should I clean it up?” I tell them it doesn’t matter we all take responsibility and should all pitch in to help. When Igo to the beach I take a trash bag and gloves. I didn’t make that mess…but I care about our beaches. Others should too.

  4. Does responsibility = mediocrity?
    Defined as: of only ordinary or moderate quality; neither good nor bad; barely adequate.

  5. I just got custody of my 2 nephews, and this really applies to what I’m going through. This is a good lesson thet we can utilize in our day-to-day situations. Thanks you!

  6. Ownership = Personal pride and gratification for a job or task well done. i.e. Leadership

    Responsibility = Obligation or duty to see things through to the end for feeling as though you want to or have to based on the circumstance and / or need.

  7. Responsibility is doing what is right because it is the right thing to do. Ownership takes responsibility and makes it personal… having a vested interest in the situation and caring enough to do it right.

  8. Responsibility is a subset of Ownership. Ownership is the end of the chain. The buck stops with ownership. For example I may delegate responsibility for the care of something I own like property or a contract. But if the person that I delegate responsibility to fails at their job then I will be the one to suffer the consequences and have to fix the problem.

  9. When you are responsible, you are expected to do the right thing. Ownership is not only being responsible, but going beyond that to fixing what is wrong. I just saw a great example on Design Star. Would-be designers were split into two teams and made responsible for designing two identical suites for Donald Trump Jr. He was OK with owning the results of one team’s work; but he informed the second crew his people would redo their work because it was not acceptable to him, the owner.

  10. Ownership implies that whatever it is belongs to you. Responsibility means you have to take care of something whether you possess it or not. For instance, we don’t own the earth. But it’s our responsibility to steward it. Otherwise, we end up polluting the environment or depleting resources. Doing that is by definition irresponsible no matter how fat someone’s bank account gets or how much energy we temprarily have to use as a result.

  11. When you take ownership of your work and personal life you are also taking responsibility for your decisions and actions. I allowed or permitted such and such incident to occur as an owner of my role in such and such circumstance. That is to say, protect and care for what you value: what you own, who you are. Realize that we are all interconnected but seek to know thyself and respond to your truth.

  12. This is a bit belated, but your rent vs own topic really stuck with me. I even used it when filling in for my pastor on Labor day weekend. Shared some of your readers great comments and applied the rent vs own concept to our faith. We had fun that day! Thanks for the inspiration.

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