News reports throughout the weekend referred to Jett Travolta as “the son of John Travolta” and called the boy’s death “The John Travolta Tragedy.” The boy’s mother was an afterthought in the news reports, if she was even mentioned at all.
I realize this is the power of celebrity – John Travolta is a bigger star than his wife, and reporters habitually zero in on the most popular person. But it still struck me as shallow. Kelly Preston’s contributions and grief as the boy’s mother were minimized by small-minded reporting.
That’s why I was heartened when both stars’ websites released a carefully-crafted, heartfelt statement calling Jett “the most wonderful son that two parents could ever ask for.” Did you catch that? Two parents. It was a subtle, but clear message to reporters that parents aren’t soloists, despite the fact that one partner may be more visible than the other.
What does this have to do with your leadership communication? Everything. It’s very telling whether you have a pattern of sharing credit with others … or whether you hog the limelight for yourself, even inadvertently.
Successful leadership is a joint venture. Always. The very concept of leadership presupposes teamwork. It’s important that you don’t monopolize the credit, but share it with others generously. That you recognize, praise and reward others.
Study the most successful coaches in professional sports and you’ll see this principal in action. Top coaches know that recognition motivates others to perform at their highest levels. When teams win, coaches generously tell the world what a great job their players did. If they’re really savvy, their praise is specific. They don’t hog the credit. And when their teams lose, savvy coaches don’t duck. They face the flack, shoulder the responsibility and take the blame publicly.
As a leader, you must decide early on how you want to play this. Will you share credit or hog it? Will you accept blame or point fingers? The people on your team who help you achieve your goals will grow tired of never getting credit for their contributions. They will grow disheartened, start grumbling and eventually, they will quit.
We all inherently want and need to be recognized for our contributions. If you don’t communicate your praise out loud, how are others to know that you’re grateful?
The wise person knows that acknowledging the contributions of others is key. A true leader spreads praise and credit and, in return, is rewarded with loyalty.