I’m slowly working my way through The Longview: Lasting Strategies for Rising Leaders. It is a book I wish was written years ago, I could have benefited from it. I have been busy, and actually read the chapter Applause Lasts for a Moment, but Leadership is for a Lifetime last week.
The chapter carries over some ideas from the previous chapter on ego. One aspect of that is hogging all the credit. Some leaders, or people in leadership positions, are driven by ego and want all the credit for success. They want the applause. But this ultimately undermines a leader’s ability to lead.
“giving away the credit never hurts a leader in the long run, but hoarding credit always does. Good leaders share or better yet totally give away credit for the positive things that happen, knowing it will circle back around to strengthen their own worth to the organization.”
What often gets in the way is our insecurity and need for recognition. This drives away others, particularly those who helped make us successful. This insecurity also refuses to accept any blame for failure. Insecurity dumps blame on those it refused to honor for success.
“Your coworkers will become more committed and more mission focused when their leader values them as God values them and doesn’t weigh them down with the burden of blame for their mistakes. … The motivation, creativity, and commitment of workers increase dramatically when they feel they are valued.”
My mind went to a work situation I endured. The organization was shifting directions and models every few years. There was not a stable, consistent vision or process. At one point they brought in a new CEO who looked good on the outside (he talked a good game) but was what I called “a small man”. He was insecure.
During a called organizational meeting he yelled at 2 departments for what certainly sounded like uncharacteristic mistakes. Those departments had been very busy lately, but there had been no word of thanks for handling the extra workload. I made the mistake of going to his office to encourage him to encourage them for the hard work they have been doing since they were all discouraged after his tongue-lashing. He wasn’t there but the message was passed on.
Soon there was another meeting in which any unhappy employees were invited to place their resignation letters on his desk by 5 pm. The organization was walking on eggshells for quite some time. People were demotivated. I couldn’t wait to get out.
This person was driven by his insecurity: he was not able to share credit or blame. He took all of the first, and none of the second. He was a poor leader.
“It is remarkable to me how many ministry employees say about their supervisor, ‘If you’re waiting to be thanked, you’ll wait a long time.'”
I’ve also been in organizations where some departments were seemingly invisible. The leaders spent all their time with other departments, neglecting others. It created a great sense of disconnect, envy and discouragement.
But another person came to my mind. That person was Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady has always shared his success with his teammates. Not just privately, but publicly. This past weekend was no exception, he talked about how the offensive line worked hard to give him the time to find the receivers who worked hard to get open. The team worked for that win.
This is also evident in the nationally run commercials he has done. Unlike other star QBs, he includes the members of the offensive line. He honored them with some of the spotlight (and some extra cash). Don’t you think they are extra-motivated to protect him?
Earlier in the year the Patriots were struggling, particularly on offense. Tom Brady took the blame. He didn’t throw anyone else under the bus. He said he needed to work harder and make adjustments.
Tom Brady is a secure leader who remains successful because he takes the long view. He needs everyone else to succeed. So he consistently shares the credit and accepts the blame.
Roger Parrott lays out 6 principles to help guide leaders in this:
- Be Purposeful– if you don’t periodically set time aside to do this, it will get lost in the busyness of leading. Check yourself by spending a day thinking of each act of appreciation you offered. You’ll find you miss many opportunities in any given day.
- Be Poignant– it must be from the heart and be credible. Hollow credit undermines your leadership.
- Be Personal– regular awards are rather impersonal. Instead personalize it, and offer it when it is not expected (before the project is done, perhaps).
- Be Pure– don’t do it for publicity, or a photo op. People will see through that, and it undermines your leadership. Join in the tough jobs, not just the visible ones.
- Be Prerequisite-Free– Yes, no strings attached. You aren’t trying to obligate people to you. Give of yourself, not just things. Gifts can often “accentuate(s) the power differential between the leader and others.”
- Be Prayerful– This will help you see them, and their needs, more clearly. Respect their boundaries, neither purposely making a show of it in the hall or by summoning them to your office for a private word of prayer. Offer to pray with and for them where & when they are comfortable.
He also gives some direction for delivering bad news- direct, disclosing & discreet. How we share credit and address failure will greatly impact our ability to influence others as leaders. Too often we are driven by our insecurities or the tyranny of the urgent. Both of those problems can be addressed, and solid leadership can develop.
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