Leader Don’ts #6:  Take all the Credit

By | January 5, 2020

[January 5, 2020]  Ever wonder why the first thing winners of an Academy Award do is thank others?  There isn’t much time (45 seconds) to say what you have to speak at the red-carpeted Oscars.  They are quick to thank those who helped make them a winner because actors and actresses want those same people to help them again.

Achieving something, leaders realize, is best accomplished when a group of people come together to make something work.  Authentic leaders take the blame when things go wrong and publicly give credit to others when things go well.  Everyone realizes that the star of the show is what makes things go well but the best stars say they would not be where they are without the efforts of people in the production crew, other cast members, and even the studio dog.

Those who do take the credit for the work of others are motivated to make themselves look better at what they do.  The reality, however, is very different.  A study by Zenger Folkman found that leader effectiveness is directly proportional to whether a leader gives credit or not.  “Those leaders whose tendency was to take credit were rated as very ineffective leaders (13th percentile), while those who tried hard to give the credit to others were rated as some of the most effective leaders (85th percentile).”

Many underestimate the positive impact that comes from making an effort to give credit to others.  There is tremendous value in giving others all the credit.  The perception is that such leaders are fairer, more committed, do what is best, walk the talk, accept responsibility, are trusted, live their core values, and are more productive.  There is a definite pattern that is clear; give others credit and you are a better leader.

Leadership is not about taking credit.  Everyone who matters will know who the leader who lead the effort to achieve any given task or mission was.  The soldier who gets an award for outstanding work understands that an award is given to one person also symbolizes the team effort.  Great leaders thank those on their team who helped make it happen.


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

20 thoughts on “Leader Don’ts #6:  Take all the Credit

    1. Scotty Bush

      Otto, don’t we all wish that. My first boss was a jerk, then the next boss (after the first got fired) was a narcissist, and now that he’s fired, I am getting promoted. My task is not to be a jerk or narcissist. One thing I will never do is take the credit for the work of others or of my team. If it goes wrong, I’ll say I’m to blame and if it all goes right, I give them the credit. That is what is the difference is a good and bad leader, my opinion anyway.

  1. Tom Bushmaster

    Excellent and informative article today, so thanks Gen. Satterfield. This is also timely for me as I have a difficult boss at work who tends to do exactly this by taking credit for our work. Some of it is okay but often times frustrating.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      Yes, Tom, we’ve all been in that situation. Learn what NOT TO DO by the poor behavior of your boss.

  2. Willie Shrumburger

    There are bosses who feel threatened by certain employees. Maybe the employee is smarter or produces ideas that others find valuable. If a boss feels threatened, they might take credit for their employee’s work to prevent exposing their own shortcomings.

    1. Len Jakosky

      While many employees want to get credit for their ideas or a job well done, most never do anything about it. But they should.

  3. Kenny Foster

    It’s a sticky situation when your boss takes all the credit, but you can handle it without reprimands or making anybody seem like a jerk. Talk to others about your work so that people see what you’ve accomplished. Talk to the your team and let them know what you feel. Document your work. These are helpful.

    1. Ronny Fisher

      Some workplaces instill a strong commitment to teamwork and employee recognition to prevent this type of situation. Your ideas here Kenny are pretty good but I will also note that the work environment is also of most importance and that is set by the owner or CEO of the organization. There must be an atmosphere is mutual trust and confidence.

      1. Greg Heyman

        Right, but many companies allow this type of behavior by not having clear guidelines and value statements in place that stress the importance of recognizing employees for their work.

  4. Mikka Solarno

    Out of anything a not-so-great boss could do, taking credit for what someone else did is the worst offense. It’s kind of like being betrayed. Remember that of all the sins, betrayal is the worst.

    1. Deplorable John

      Much of that is because it makes us feel so powerless and unappreciated, which threatens our whole sense of self and security.

    2. JT Patterson

      While it can be scary to stand up for yourself if it happens to you, it’s important that you do, not just to protect yourself and others in your office, but also to stress what’s ethical so your boss can repent and grow.

  5. apache2

    Hey, Gen. Satterfield, great mini-series on what leaders don’t do. Usually the tact is to tell us what they DO rather than what they DON”T DO. A welcome change. I think, nevertheless, that I see a pattern developing here. ?

  6. Janna Faulkner

    I’ve had most of my bosses take the credit when our team is successful but are quick to blame us all for any failures.

    1. Eva Easterbrook

      Yeah, Janna, I was thinking the same thing about my current team leader here in Manhattan, NY where most of my friends and I work. We have a woman in charge who is full of herself and keeps a picture of Obama on her desk (I think to irritate me). Oh well, she’ll be gone soon enough; she gets promoted and out of my hair.

      1. Dead Pool Guy

        Clearly a lack of oversight by the more senior leaders where you work and there must be no formal assistance provided to help junior, less intelligent leaders.

      2. Jerome Smith

        Thanks for sharing Eva. I know what you mean. It is so very frustrating too to have such a person overlooking your shoulder when they are less mature and less experienced than you.

    2. Dale Paul Fox

      I think this is a relatively common phenomenon in the average workplace.


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