Leaders talk in terms of “we”, not “I” – unless it is to take full responsibility for a mistake or failure. There have been far too many managers that have chosen to take credit for work done by great people that worked for them. Note the difference in context for leader vs. manager – they are very different.

I witnessed a true leader in action today. The CEO of a company I know well was in the midst of correcting a problem made by others within his ranks. A government agency called the company to the table to discuss some fairly egregious offenses. The CEO could have sent some of his most competent and capable people, but he didn’t… He appeared himself and apologized – sincerely. He then told his employees that accompanied him that the problem originated with him (even though people that had worked for him committed the offense without his knowledge) because there was a culture created that he had chosen not to deal with sooner because the business had otherwise been successful. He took full responsility and he fully accepted the consequences… Like a leader should.

In stark contrast, I had an experience with a company I worked for that never set well with me. I spent a little over a full year recruiting talent to assist in landing a very large contract. Once the talented team was assembled, we spent another year building the business around the contract that we landed together – it was a “David & Goliath” story. It was a contract formerly held by a multi-billion dollar company, now held by a multi-million dollar company. This team did some of the most amazing work that I’ve ever witnessed. This particular project was so impressive that it increased the company’s total revenue by 40% in one year by landing a contract that was supposedly “unattainable”.  There was massive amounts of press coverage and publicized “ribbon cutting” events. This was the type of victory for a relatively small company that could have propelled them for years, maybe decades. Unfortunately, the top tiers of management at this company never rewarded the team that accomplished such a feat. They never even recognized the team – formally or informally. None of the press coverage ever mentioned the team, but the acting CEO took all the credit. Shortly thereafter, a new CEO re-publicized the event and also took the credit. The behavior by management was one of the primary reasons I departed from this company after almost a decade and a half of employment. I was most concerned about the way the people on the team I worked with were treated – the victories were not shared with them, but any of the challenges along the way were dealt with harshly. Not indicative of true leadership.

So what does giving credit and taking responsibility have to do with integrity? Integrity is honesty. When leader’s look to place instead of accept blame, they are not being honest – perhaps because they are blind to the truth. Leaders are always responsible. When leaders take instead of share credit – again, not honest. Without good people, there is no one to lead, therefore no victories to take credit for. Give credit, take responsibility – you and your people will be better for it. – JT3

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