Extreme Ownership

Colton Ballet recently kicked off rehearsals for “The Nutcracker” and I couldn’t be more excited for our daughter Betsy to participate for the first time!

I can’t help thinking about all the life lessons I learned from years of performing. Every part of my job that involves commanding the stage and connecting with an audience comes from years spent on the stage as a dancer.

I often share my stage stories in leadership development programs, and people often respond with their own stories that totally relate. So I’ve compiled a few to share over the next four weeks.

I hope you enjoy!

Extreme Ownership

My first opening night of my first Nutcracker did not go as planned.

I was supposed to run out on stage at the end of the Soldier scene and pull the Mouse King’s tail to distract him from stabbing Clara, the main character. It was a VERY important part of the show in my 8 year old mind, and I had completely sabotaged the scene.

One of the life size mice had run over me backstage, causing me to fall, causing me to miss the cue to run out to grab the tail. I was devastated.

I remember sullenly walking to the car with my mom at the end of the 1st act, sure that my performing days were over, when the mouse, the one that had run over me, came sprinting through the parking lot.

He dropped down on one knee and in dramatic form, apologized with the greatest amount of gusto he could possibly muster! He named every emotion I was feeling, ensured me that he was to blame, and promised me that it would never happen again.

I mean – it was the greatest apology I’ve ever experienced, and I’m not even sure it was necessary! I still smile thinking about it. He assumed total ownership of the issue, proactively communicated, and alleviated all of my anxieties in one conversation.

Jamie Burcham was that mouse, and all who knew him can attest that Jamie was never afraid to be himself, never too good to apologize and had a dramatic flair that drew people to him like a magnet.

I think we need more people in the world like Jamie, more leaders who are willing to apologize, willing to take ownership of their actions even when it seems unnecessary. More people who are willing to take ownership of their position on a board or leadership team or as a supervisor. Just people who take ownership. Don’t you agree?

Two Great Book Recommendations on this Topic


If you read them, I’d love to know what you think. Or better yet – let’s schedule a time for your team to talk about what it means to teach your people to assume extreme ownership of their role.


Katie Wynn