“A good leader is a person who takes a little more than their share of the blame and a little less than their share of the credit.”
~Arnold H. Glasow

It seems simple, take a little more than your share of the blame and a little less than your share of the credit. It seems simple, and yet it’s sometimes anything but simple to do. Why? And what do we do about it?

As a general rule of thumb, we crave acknowledgement and recognition – or credit. Pretty much all of us do. As a second general rule of thumb, we fear rejection, ridicule, failure, and being “caught” doing something wrong – hence blame. This is how we are wired – as human beings and for survival. This is why we might step away from taking blame for a mistake or allow others to give us credit that might not really be ours to take. We may do these things unintentionally or unconsciously. But we may do them none the less.

We may do them, but we can learn not to. Here are a few shifts that can move you in the right direction:

  • Look for what’s right – similar to the idea of “catching them doing something right,” which helps us share more positive feedback, when we pay attention to our team with the intention of finding the things that they’re doing right and well, we have more specific examples of credit-worthy actions and opportunities that we can share with our boss and peers.
  • Notice your bodily reactions – when we feel potentially blamed, or even just the fear of being blamed, our body reacts. We may tense up; we may feel our breath become more shallow; we may feel a bit of tightness in our stomachs. Whatever it is that you feel, as you pay attention, you can notice the bodily reactions sooner. And once you notice your bodily reactions, you can remind yourself to breathe through your tension and fear and avoid passing along blame.
  • Talk them up – in general, it is a powerful leadership move to find ways to “talk up” your team to others in the organization, particularly your boss and your boss’s boss. If someone on your team receives a “thank you email” from a colleague and you’re copied on the email, pass it along. Find reasons and ways to let others know how strong and effective your team members are.
  • Accept responsibility – like the captain of the ship, as the leader you are ultimately responsible for what happens, and you need to have your team’s back. We are not suggesting that you, as the captain of the ship, go down with the ship, but that you be willing to provide cover for your team as necessary and to accept responsibility for their mistakes, while at the same time working hard to rectify their mistakes and to prevent further mistakes.

It can be so easy to let others take blame for a challenge while you take credit for a success, and it can be such a powerful leadership action to do the opposite. We may have to fight our ingrained tendencies and fears to move in this “right” direction, but we can if we try. And we should.

How have you taken blame and/or shared credit? How has it worked for you?
Please leave a comment.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For support in taking a little more and a little less, contact Lisa at lkohn@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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