A True Leader Shares the Credit

Posted by:

I once worked for a boss who delighted in taking the credit for the work his team did. I’m guessing you’ve worked for somebody like this too—there are a lot of them around. And there are some perfectly understandable reasons why a boss would want to take all the credit. They may want to:

  • impress their own boss;
  • impress a co-worker;
  • impress the cute new sales intern.

Understandable reasons, yes; effective leadership, no.

“Leaders” like this would be well-advised to remember what Harry S Truman once said:

“It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Look, we all have egos, and we all like to be recognized for our accomplishments. That’s only human. But when we find ourselves sabotaging our own long-term success for a few short-term pats on the back, something’s wrong.

I was in Asia not too long ago, speaking to employees of a large Singapore-based media corporation. At one point, one of the attendees—a well-known radio personality—asked, “What can you do when you’re part of an on-air radio team, and the team just isn’t clicking?” After a bit of digging, I found out that each member of the team wanted to be the star. Each member of the team wanted all the good interviews, all the best lines.

I suggested they try an experiment. For one day, I wanted them to make it their sole mission to make the other person the star. Stop interrupting their stories. Set them up for the great punch lines. Just for one day.

A couple of weeks later, when I was back home in the United States, I got an e-mail from the individual who had asked me that question. She told me that she and the other person had decided to give my suggestion a try. And, to be honest, the results weren’t that great—the first day. Old habits die hard. But they stuck with it, and within a week, the team—and the show—was clicking. It was funnier, more energetic, and more fun for everybody. And here’s the kicker: each member of the team was getting more recognition, and more positive feedback, than they had been when they were trying to be the star!

When John Lennon and Paul McCartney began writing songs together, they made an informal agreement to share the writing credit on every song they wrote for the Beatles—whether they actually wrote the song together or not. Thus, Lennon shares a writing credit for Yesterday, a song he had nothing to do with, and McCartney shares the credit on Strawberry Fields Forever, which was 100% written by Lennon. They knew, even early on, that the “Lennon/McCartney” brand had far more value than either of their own individual egos.

A true leader shares the credit for the accomplishments of his or her team. A true leader knows that his or her star isn’t dimmed when the team shines.

Be sure you share the credit with your team. They’ll be happier, more productive, and more loyal. And you’ll get better results. It truly is amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit!


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
  Related Posts