Edited excerpt from Jason Lemkin’s answer to From the perspective of a CEO, what are the most underrated skills most employees lack?:
Most employees just can’t be owners. This may not matter at Adobe, or Google, or wherever. But up until you have 500 employees or so, the CEO is looking for owners. People that don’t just play a role, but truly own something, that make 100% sure it comes in ahead of time and ahead of expectations — with as little drama as possible.
Ship your feature ahead of time, and make it delightfully better than expected. Better yet, ship a feature everyone else said was too hard to build, that couldn’t be done. Hit your sales plan well ahead of time, while still making time to help others and show them how to do it as well. Hit your lead commit ahead of time. Don’t just balance the books, but exceed the collections goal, every month. Whatever it is.
This isn’t the same as “taking the initiative”, it’s a superset of that. It’s delivering. And it’s very, very easy to do in a start-up actually. Vs. almost impossible in a BigCo. Just overdeliver on everything you’re given to do. And not just your part — the whole project you are working on. See where others are falling behind, and help them. Folks around you will naturally gravitate toward that. You’ll become a natural leader, over time.
(1) How could you test for this in the hiring process?
(2) Cf. Setting clear goals = empowerment.