you do not get credit for what you are supposed to do
“A diamond is a chunk of coal that did well under pressure.”
“When you do things right, people won’t be sure that you have done anything at all.”
God (in Futurama)
Think what you want and say what you want to say about Kissinger … but the opening quote is awesome <although, geologically speaking, it may not be truly accurate>.
In our quest for recognition as a leader many business people, and leaders in general, seemingly get shoved <on seemingly a daily basis> into some absurd universe where everyone judges you <mostly on some absurd views of ‘being noticed is what matters’ or ‘shine bright like a diamond‘>. I say that because this means thinking of yourself as a piece of coal seems … well … quite underwhelming and quite ‘unleaderly’ <I made that word up>.
One of the most frustrating things you learn early on in a management career path is that you do not get credit for what you are expected to do. And maybe what makes this most frustrating is that this lesson applies to a crisis as well as the most mundane everyday grind responsibilities.
The thing is as you gain more and more responsibility you learn that this is actually a good thing.
People like reliability.
People like consistency.
People like a foundation of quiet competent leadership.
People like you doing what you are supposed to do <with little fanfare>.
This is a lesson learned early on in a management career … and you can tell the leaders who <a> did not learn it or <b> saw the lesson but lack self-confidence … because they … well … ignore the lesson and exhibit ongoing aggravating self promotion <even on the things they are expected to do>.
This doesn’t mean you aren’t tempted to take a moment or two to point out, sometimes in some fairly loud messaging, that you want some credit for what you are doing.
This is the ‘dance.’
The management & leader “credit dance.’ I call it a dance because every good leader knows they have to do some self-public relations and, yet, they don’t want to be seen as doing any overt self-public relations.
“The price of greatness is responsibility.”
Being a great leader is all about doing your job and doing the right things at the right time … and <I imagine> figuring out how to actually tell people that you did the right things at the right time. This means not being seen a as blowing your own horn or being some narcissistic attention seeking, credit seeking asshat but rather one who understands it really isn’t about gaining credit or accolades but rather reassuring people that the right things, the good things, just get done under your watch.
I would note that reassurance is a powerful tool. It is powerful because doing things right isn’t about small … nor large … but if you do it right … really right … people will not really be sure that you’ve done anything at all and, yet, feel reassured that you are there.
In today’s bombastic world it can actually become a bad thing if no one notices. Why? <insert a ‘huh?!?’ here> because someone else at the exact same time is telling everyone what they did … and yes … unfortunately … often the squeaky wheel does get the grease.
The truth is that the value is never in the credit. And leaders know that. And we everyday schmucks need to remind ourselves of that more often.
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
Leaders know that the little things can matter and that just delivering upon what you are supposed to do really matters <a lot>.
A subtle touch can create the needed ripples. Doing what you are supposed to do insures the right ripples are always … well … rippling.
Good leaders know you can be the initiator, instigator or implementer … or even all of them … and it doesn’t really matter.
I would note that within the realm of doing what you are supposed to do about the only thing that can truly diminish ‘greatness of simple doing’ is not accepting responsibility – for the bad and the good and all that it takes to get to either place.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that what I just stated is ‘character’.
Leaders don’t lead by asking or telling people to follow it most often happens by doing the shit you are supposed to do really well.
I know. I know. That doesn’t sound “great” but greatness really cannot be achieved without it.
This kind of suggests that greatness is a contradiction.
Let’s use Winston as an example.
Huge ego. MASSIVE ego. Charismatic speaker. Maybe one of the greatest orators of all time. Made some huge mistakes. HUGE mistakes. …. But humble in his responsibility. He permitted the people to get credit for success and strength and what needed to be done … all the while doing what he as supposed to be doing.
He was vocal, and sincere, on issues and the people of Great Britain getting credit.
All despite his ego.
Great leadership reflects a unique balance of ego and humility. Ego to effectively lead and humility to be effectively followed.
I would imagine those with the greatest character reside somewhere on the line between those two things.
I would imagine those with the greatest character reside somewhere in between not getting credit for what they are supposed to do and actually being acknowledged for enabling greater greatness.
I know it isn’t popular to say this but most of the best things in Life, and leadership, are found in the unspectacular:
- The best people more often than not go unseen and unnoticed by the majority.
- The best moments more often than not go unseen until looking back.
Just as perfection is most often found in the imperfections … spectacular is most often found in the unspectacular. And, yes, doing what you are supposed to do is unspectacular.
But I would argue the spectacular would never ever happen if the ‘supposed to do’ shit never happened.
In the end.
Great leaders are often judged by what you don’t see them doing. This also means great leaders are often judged by what they feel comfortable remaining silent about … by what they don’t say about what they are supposed to do and supposed to be.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out this is a little more difficult than it may appear.
It is a little more difficult because a great leader does have to have some ego and some higher level of confidence and, therefore, some positive affirmation kind of helps to put some well needed oxygen back into the confidence balloon.
It takes a awhile to learn you don’t have to ask for oxygen or even try and fill it yourself … well … at least good leaders learn that … the bad, insecure ones never do.