When you talk about leadership, there are countless characteristics, attributes, competencies and other criteria often mentioned. For me, there’s one critical indicator of leadership that, without it, the label “leader” pretty much rings hollow:
Does the person in a leadership position raise his or her people up? Or is the leadership position used to raise him or herself up on the backs of their people?
The former sounds like a leader; the latter—not so much.
I’ve seen “leaders” of companies and organizations put themselves first and their staff second. When it came to public recognition, the head would stand out front and take the credit. It probably wasn’t a coincidence that the morale within those organizations, especially among the junior employees or first line staff, was pretty low. The head’s attitude was that if the staff didn’t appreciate what they were given, they could go somewhere else.
It seems pretty obvious that these two things are connected—the attitude of the person at the top and the attitude of the people at the bottom.
Alternatively, a real leader would stand behind his or her people and push them forward to take the recognition for a job well done. In this way, the staff would feel good for being recognized, that their work hadn’t gone unnoticed. They would likely be happier, more united, and maybe even more productive.
When your leader raises you up and recognizes you in public for the work you do, do you think for one second anyone forgets who the leader is? If anything, the public looks more favorably, more admiringly on the leader who is secure enough in himself or herself to give others credit.
It is the weak leader who needs the spotlight and advances his or her own ego and reputation at the expense of the staff.
Being a leader is not an ego game that centers on the leader. It’s a giving game that centers on the staff.