“A candle loses nothing when it lights another candle.”
— Thomas Jefferson
At the end of a movie, the end credits appear featuring all the individuals who were involved in creating the film. From the lead actors to key grips, the stage is shared for all who made the movie possible.
In our organizations, the work product is serving customers or completing projects. Once our work is completed, there are no rolling credits for all to see. Despite our best intentions as leaders, we often neglect to recognize our supporting cast.
Leadership is about being on stage, as others watch what we do and don’t do very carefully. They observe how success is celebrated, and whether their work will be recognized. They hope to see and hear their name in the end credits. Their chance to be on stage.
I was at a concert years ago featuring a music director and two musicians. The director’s daughter was the vocalist, and she was accompanied by a pianist. At the end of their marvelous performance, the father praised the singer and forgot to recognize her partner who played the piano. For me, the oversight was off-key and flat.
Perhaps the director was caught up in pride for his daughter. As a father, I can completely understand. Following the applause, the director realized his mistake and corrected the situation by recognizing the pianist and praising his performance.
After the performance I asked the pianist if he was disappointed not being recognized. He dismissed the slight — “not a big deal.” His humble response clearly had an undercurrent of disappointment.
We have all been there.
Enjoying the personal satisfaction of a successful accomplishment is certainly not a bad thing. We work hard and deserve recognition for our role. Where we can stumble is recognizing we did not achieve success alone.
Why do we not share? We may have a personal experience of being overlooked for past achievements. Perhaps recognition helps us adjust to struggles at work, such as a plateaued career. Both reasons are self-centered — we can do better.
Three keys for sharing the stage:
Check Your Ego
- When you are center stage, all eyes are on you and the attention can be intoxicating.
- Redirect the recognition to others — the stage does not shrink when you share.
- Sometimes in life we need to step back, to step forward.
- Leaders need to follow as well as lead.
- “I couldn’t have done it without you” contributes to gratitude, yet it is not complete.
- The key is describing why — what did they do to be onstage. Like the movie credits, what was their role?
A reservoir stores water: a channel distributes it. Recognition works the same way. Great leaders lift others up, they channel recognition to members of their team. They share the stage. Remember — when you light another candle, your flame remains strong.
Have a great week!
Read to Lead
Leaders benefit from being active readers, long reads not just social media posts and news feeds. A deep read builds concentration, strengthens your intellectual capacity, and offers wisdom you can share. As you refresh or build your reading habit, diversify your experience — old, new, fiction, non-fiction, audio, hard cover, and e-readers.
My November 2023 favorites:
Build The Life You Want — The Art and Science of Being Happier By Arthur C. Brooks and Oprah Winfrey
Arthur C. Brooks and Oprah Winfrey offer personal insights to begin a personal journey toward greater happiness, no matter how challenging our current circumstances. They focus on the importance of family, friends, career, and faith.
The Invisible Generals By Doug Melville
An amazing story of the first African American father and son to be Generals in the United States military. Benjamin Davis, Senior and Junior, were highly decorated leaders whose perseverance led to the integration of the armed forces. They also played critical roles in the success of the Tuskegee Airmen. Triumphing over harsh racism, their impact was large and unfortunately their recognition was small.