Ask Jo: How to show that teammates’ accomplishments are due to my leadership skills

Question: I always like to give recognition where it’s due, but how do I help my manager see that my teammates’ accomplishments are due to my leadership skills?

Answer: GREAT question… but here’s the thing about leadership that’s really, really different form being an individual contributor: It’s not about YOU anymore!

This is one of the toughest things about being a leader: you need to shift your mindset so that you no longer derive gratification from your own effort and wins, but get your gratification from seeing the team’s effort and their wins instead. So that you don’t just feel satisfied with putting in a solid day’s work yourself, but care deeply about when the team is giving their all as well. So that when the team is praised, you as leader feel praised, too. So that when the team struggles, you roll up your sleeves and do whatever it takes to clear a path for them.

I get it. You’re not officially anyone’s leader yet. You’re a team member and a peer who has aspirations to lead, but don’t have the leadership title. But since we’re on the topic, here are two simple reasons why you may want to take the leadership approach, now rather than later:

Reason #1: It’s a different type of recognition

Early on in your career, when you lead a team to achieve something and they get all the accolades, it can feel threatening at first. “Where’s my moment in the spotlight?” you ask yourself. It can often seem as if the spotlight isn’t big enough for more than one or two people, especially if it’s a highly competitive team.

But think about what happens in the longer term, if you build a reputation for being the leader among peers who accelerates the productivity of everyone around her. In time, when you’re known as that person, seeing other people get praise is not a threat – it’s actually a compliment to you and your leadership. As you evolve into leadership, you’ll begin to be recognized – and rewarded – for a different skill set.

Reason #2: There’s enough praise to go round

In any case, praise doesn’t have to be scarce. When you speak up to acknowledge a win, you can acknowledge yourself, and the team as well, by using language that’s all-inclusive. For example, you might say something like, “I led the team and we accomplished…” Or, “The team and I achieved…” Or even, “We as a team were able to…” You’re still saying the same thing, but rather than using “I” exclusively, you’re beginning to weave “we” into your speech patterns as well – the mark of a true leader.

The Takeaway

I recognize that it can be tough to embrace this new way of thinking. To help foster the adjustment, here are some articles about the mindset shift from yours truly, Tara Jaye Frank and Liz Brenner, two leaders who have successfully made this leap to take on senior leadership roles in their organizations:

The Scariest Thing About Becoming a Leader
Management Lessons From Under the Bus
Great Leaders Know When to Step Aside

As Susan Ritchie says, “You can be a leader without being the leader.” And remember, the best leaders don’t scramble over one another to reach the top. Instead, they lift others up as they climb.

Jo Miller

Jo Miller is a globally renowned authority on women’s leadership. She’s dedicated two decades to helping women advance into positions of influence by leveraging their leadership strengths. Based on her work with hundreds of thousands of women, she developed a pragmatic and powerful roadmap that guides women to become the leaders they aspire to be. Jo shares this proven process in her book Woman of Influence: 9 Steps to Build Your Brand, Establish Your Legacy, and Thrive (McGraw Hill, 2019.)

Jo is CEO of leadership development, consulting and research firm Be Leaderly. Learn more about her speaking engagements at www.JoMiller.com and follow @Jo_Miller on Twitter.

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