Last month I got invited to one of my client’s annual conference.
They are a SaaS company and it was a relatively high profile affair – about 200 of their employees, investors, partners and clients all well looked after over a 3 day weekend retreat.
Amidst the golf, food and guest speakers there was obviously the latest company announcements. And heading these were a highly enigmatic and enthusiastic management team – the Head of sales, the CMO and the Head of Product Strategy.
They even had an employee awards ceremony – which was great fun.
On the last day, I happened to be rushing and forgot my phone in the hotel room after checking-out. By the time I had managed to get it back, the hotel was pretty much deserted. As I went to order a taxi back to the airport, a fellow guest overheard me and offered to let me share his ride as we were both heading in the same direction. I thought he may have been a service provider to the company like me.
To my surprise, I found out he was actually one of the co-founders of the company. I hadn’t seen him at any point during the weekend. Discussing with him further, it was plain to see that he was still very actively involved with the company and a key part of their success.
Yet he’d hardly been visible. With the company now flying, you’d expect most people in his position relishing the opportunity to publicize themselves, celebrating their success or spending time impressing the investors.
Yet he’d been totally content to let the credit be taken by others.
It’s not a one-off. The greatest leaders of all are often those who are more than happy to step outside the limelight.
Here are some reasons why great leaders let others take the credit.
It shows gratitude
Leadership is giving. Great leaders understand that leading others involves serving their followers as best as possible at all times.
In fact throughout the course of history, the greatest leaders have even been prepared to risk their lives for the good of the greater group.
Giving credit to others simply shows gratitude. And gratitude is an essential ingredient in building faith and loyalty in one’s leader. Great leaders are not interested in personal accolades as much as the well being of their followers and their overall mission. They express their gratitude to their followers whenever they can.
Great leaders give credit as much as possible.
Every parent knows that genuine praise to a child becomes addictive.
As social creatures, we’re much more craving of praise than Pavlov’s dog was for food. The more praise we get, the better it feels. And the more motivated we are to get more. We can never get too much.
Great leaders understand that genuine praise is a powerful motivator. In fact in ten years as a recruiter working with many successful entrepreneurs, I can even say with confidence that people are usually more motivated to succeed by credit or recognition than even money itself.
Great leaders give credit to motivate us even more.
Successful celebrities know that no-one stays at the very top for very long.
Yesterday’s Paris Hilton becomes today’s Kim Kardashian becomes tomorrow’s next super”star”.
It’s because although we like giving out recognition, at some point we get bored. We want someone else to win. We don’t believe it’s fair for someone to dominate for too long. Sometimes we can even resent others for continuously being the best.
After all, how many of us once loved someone famous, only to then one day start supporting the underdog?
Great leaders understand that taking the credit all the time – even if it is rightfully earned – can alienate others. It’s better to share it out among their team – it allows the overall organization to grow and scale with the support of others.
Great leaders value progress over recognition.
We all like to be recognized.
So when someone offers us credit, we usually simply take it.
It takes a lot of discipline to pass the credit on to others. But that’s what great leaders do.
Hiring managers can gain much from those people who are happy for the credit to be taken by others as long as the team improves overall.
They are the leaders of the future.
Does your boss let you take the credit?