Accountability not credit

Many years ago I worked for a small, family-owned consulting firm. I learned a lot there and had significant creative freedom. I also had an unbelievable boss. Sounds good, doesn’t it? It was, for a while.

Once I started to think for myself and developed, shall we say, alternative opinions, I got into a bit of trouble. The freedom I’d experienced turned into a vice. That alone should have been enough to call time for me, but I was young. There were other events that ultimately led me to the door (by the end, I was practically in a sprint), but one in particular was probably the most egregious.

My boss came to my home to pick up something he needed. It was his first visit to the house Steve and I had recently purchased after saving for years. It wasn’t much, just a little bungalow in south Toronto, but it was ours. My boss wandered through the house, looking in rooms and nodding, and headed out to the patio. There, he stood with his hands on our railing and announced “it makes me proud to know that it’s because of me and my little company that you have all of this.” I told you he was unbelievable.

Ego check, Mr Wonderful. Perhaps you and your little company helped by employing me, but it was really Steve and I who did all the heavy lifting to buy this house, not you. Nice try though.

So what did I learn from this embarrassing display of hubris? Taking accountability is one thing, but taking credit is an entirely different animal. Want to be a good leader? Spend most of your time on the first and leave the second to those who actually earn it. It all comes back to you in the end anyway.

Check your ego and your need to be the centre of attention at the door. If you can’t do this, you simply can’t lead.