Servant leaders let their stake holders and results speak for them while they speak of their stake holders.

I vs. We for LeadersI recently mentioned that we need to be careful to say what we mean and not just go along with the trends of modern business speak. Another example of this is our continuous battle against self-promotion rather than elevating the team. The most classic symptom of this issue is leadership who routinely state, “I did this” or “I did that” rather than “We did this or that”. The former promotes the individual while the latter recognizes the contributions of the broader team.

With the aggressive pursuit for recognition and promotion in today’s business environment, it’s common to witness others clamoring for recognition of their perceived, independent efforts. In fact, there are many books and posts on the topic of promoting yourself in business. While I am sure many of these authors are well-intended and have great points, I struggle with the approach of self-promotion. There are four reasons I am bothered by individuals who routinely taut how, “I did this or that”. Namely:

1. It Puts the Team Second: When given the opportunity to highlight accomplishments, isn’t it best for the organization if the leader is highlighting the group over the individual?

2. It Masks Efforts of Others: Even if the accomplishment, minor or large, is believed to be completely an individual achievement, chances are others were doing tasks that enabled the leader to focus on the accomplishment.

3. It Promotes Selfishness: If a leader is perceived as getting ahead by promoting themselves over the team, others will duplicate these tactics. The net result is an increasingly self-centered organization with decreasing teamwork.

4. It Decreases Morale: I wrote about this in Narcissism Kills Morale. In essence though, when given the platform to promote the team, if a leader instead promotes themselves, they decrease the team’s morale.

Servant leaders, however, let their stake holders and results speak for them while they speak of their stake holders. It also seems to me that the best way to distinguish yourself is not to do the same as others. Instead, one should deliver results, while being recognized as a leader of strong character, promoting their teams and putting the organization’s need’s first. So the next time you’re provided the platform, think of the team first, and take the opportunity to promote them by saying “we”, not “I”.


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Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

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