17 Jan Why leaders lead, part 02 — Credit

When I started teaching, a colleague of mine and I started the Leadership team — a student-centric group aiming to improve the school culture and experience. It’s divided into nine units with teachers heading each of them, according to their strengths and interests. They’re all named after a value they find important : courage, loyalty, responsibility. Here’s a story about my unit, trust.


Why leaders lead, part 02 – Credit

The four parts of this story aim to show why leaders do what they do. Those who lead don’t choose to do so as to merit a better rank, achieve results, receive the credit, garner praise, or be shown recognition. In teams where leadership is valued and cultivated by all team members, motivation stems instead from more collective reasons :

  • Team members are trusted as experts within their domains and are expected to counsel leaders and teammates with solutions instead of bringing forth problems.
  • Results are secondary to the growth of team members, allowing them to better their craft and to develop their leadership abilities.
  • All team members vie for the growth of their team, and sacrifice their time and effort to protect its integrity

Part 02. Credit

Two of the students from my Leadership team unit are willing to take the risk to do great things. They’ve bought into the notion that leadership is earned, and aren’t afraid of committing their time and efforts. They aren’t afraid to ask to be included with the organization of projects, and go around offering their assistance to others. They’re deserving of meaningful roles, and they hold onto them without believing they’re superior to their peers.

They’re ultra-dynamic, make a great duo, and alienate almost everyone else. They’re overwhelming most of the time. Not from a fault of their own — they’re actually quite inclusive of others. But their peers either see them as attention-seeking, being the favorites, or being bossy.

These two kids give their names to be hosts of the Christmas show. Masters of ceremony, if you will, popping up on stage after each number and announcing the next. The common wisdom between teachers : they shouldn’t be chosen as hosts, they’ll draw too much attention, they’ll monopolize the show. I agreed that while it was worth exploring the possibility of other students undertaking the role, those two absolutely deserved it. Another one of my colleagues agreed : it’s their only and last chance to host this Christmas show, they’re the most skilled for the task, and they work well together. Other students might be jealous, but these two understand that there is sometimes a cost associated to leadership.

They were thrilled to be selected, and they knew that I had to do something for that to happen. And after a few weeks of practicing their script, they made it clear that they were having a blast and were looking forward to the show. And that they were sure to give me a special thanks at the end of the show. I suggested they recalibrate their message.

We lead because we want to build, or be part of, something great. Within teams with great leadership, credit and recognition are irrelevant as sources of motivation.

We don’t lead to be popular or respected. We don’t make decisions because we like to tell others what to do. Instead, we lead because we want to build, or be part of, something great. Within teams with great leadership, credit and recognition are irrelevant as sources of motivation. I therefore argued with our two students that they didn’t ask to be the show’s hosts in order to receive praise. Their motivation stemmed from the fact that they would be challenged with an important task, would have to put their abilities to the test, and wanted to show that they could be trusted with their autonomy. They would be, in a way, leading the show. Not only were they to help build something great, but they were the ones who would decide when everyone else were allowed to be a part of it themselves.

We sometimes inherit leadership roles. Other times, we earn them. But most of the time, we decide to take them, not for our own personal gains but for the growth of our team. When a member of your team goes out of their way to help you, don’t resort to show your gratitude publicly. Do so individually, and better yet, do it mostly through your actions instead of your words. Show them appreciation for their contribution to the culture of trust within your team by sacrificing your own time and effort to aid others, as they have done for you.