“‘I can’t tell him what I’m doing!’
“I was walking outside with a friend enjoying a sunny day in Oregon. We like to catch up and share our work and progress. The sun warmed us as well as the long walk outside. I closed my eyes briefly and felt the sun rays on my face.
“My friend told me about the latest project he works on and the innovation he can create. He complained about how hard he’s working. ‘Why don’t you ask the team leader for help?’
“‘I can’t tell him what I’m doing! Last week he presented all my ideas to the project management as if they were his own!'”
There is no trust between the two. Even worse, the team leader is getting credit for something he didn’t do! My friend doesn’t get any credit, and as a result, hides his work from the team leader. Work progresses slower, and project management is not aware of potential innovation.
Team leader that assume all the credit can’t manage their teams effectively. Their team members question everything the team leader says, they work slower and aren’t motivated to create breakthroughs as they know their work isn’t appreciated. Eventually, employees leave.
What’s going on here?
Ego & Status
When observing leaders and managers who behave in the manner described above, we tend to describe them as focused on their “Status”. Or are full of their “Ego”. Which means they care only for themselves.
What causes these behaviors?
Our fears dictate our behavior
2 primal fears run our lives:
1) Am I good enough?
2) Will they love me?
We all have these fears, and they impact our lives in different ways. When we take credit for something we did not create, it’s because we want to feel significant, we want others to “love” us. When we get praise for our accomplishments, we feel that we are good enough. Even if we’re not the one who actually made the accomplishment. We still get a short “fix”.
We compare our status to others because we need to feel that we are better than others. That we are enough. The reality is that we are insecure.
Status driven managers are not bad people. They are merely working to satisfy their self-insecurity and their need to feel superior and important.
By doing so, they neglect the team, lose any respect they have from employees and peers and eventually from their manager. No one likes someone who only thinks about themselves.
Which type of leader are you?
Still, we find examples of status-driven managers who become CEOs of companies. In the book good to great by Jim Collins, the author describes CEOs who are level 4 leaders vs. level 5 leaders.
Level 4 leaders are the “know it all” leaders who focus on praising themselves. They are the “I” type. “I did this, I did that.” When they leave companies, the companies are rarely able to maintain production, and they crumble. Leaders like that leave an organization that can’t function without them. So much for success and glory.
Level 5 leaders are a “Us, We, Them” type of leaders. They focus on the benefit of the company and its teams rather than themselves. They rarely take credit for anything. They leave strong groups with capable leadership skills to keep running the company.
Quit the race
The race for status and Ego satisfaction ruins teams.
I became a manager 6 months after reading the book 7 habits of highly effective people. The main takeaway at that time for me was to stop comparing myself to others and focusing on giving value to others. I didn’t even realize that I’m always chasing others, trying to be like them, instead of being me.
I invite you, as you’re reading these lines, to stop and ask yourself:
“Is status important to me?” if you answer yes, keep asking: “Why is it even important?” I hope you find clarity when you ponder on these questions.
Great leaders don’t take credit for the work of others. They get credit for growing experts who achieve great results.
Share your experience
Was the article helpful? Do you think others can benefit from it? Please take a moment and share it along with a comment that describes your takeaway. Feel free to mention me, so I get notified. That would be very helpful.
Thank you for reading this.
Nir Megnazi – Leadership Coach
I can see ego and status being a pitfall within my own management style. Thanks Nir for calling out the serious implications it can have on a team member and how to avoid it.
Awareness is the first step towards change! Keep up the good work Gaurav!