Two simple ways to be a better leader: walk around, share credit

There are a lot of different ways to view leadership — through the lens of humility, by looking at preparation, via empathy, etc. Here’s another way: it’s not actually that hard.

In fact, you can do two relatively simple things and be construed as a better leader. Let’s dive in.

Step 1: Realize there is a difference between being “a manager” and “a leader.” Being “a manager” implies that you supervise and oversee. That’s a fool’s errand, because that’s not actually how people under you want to be dealt with. Being “a leader” involves giving context to decisions — why as opposed to what — and allowing people to do their own thing, have their own screw-ups, and learn from them. Then, you course-correct. They are two different things. Managers are the people who confuse “busy” with “productive.” Leaders are the people who realize that productive actions are the only thing you should be seeking.

Step 2: Walk around more. That’s it. It’s that simple. Press the flesh. Roderick Kramer, a social psychologist at Stanford, has done some research on this. His research has a lot to do with establishing trust as a leader — that’s obviously very important — and one aspect of that is, quite simply, being present and accessible. Consider:

“These things sound obvious, but still it’s important to look for ways to communicate them,” says Kramer. “Several people have written about the importance of leading by walking around — being present, accessible. Leaders like this leave a good impression as tangible, real people.”

Concur 1000 percent. Here’s the deal: at organizations where managers spend all their time in meetings with other managers, there’s no real sense of them as “real people.” You see them for all-hands meetings and maybe at some org events. That’s not enough. The communication needs to be organic. It doesn’t have to be BFF-stuff, but it needs to be more than “Can’t talk about that right now, running to another meeting” or “hopping on another call.” Those things infuriate me. As you manage up — for the good of your career — also manage down (for the good of other people’s careers). This benefits you in the long run.

I met with a co-worker of mine once and he was lamenting that the SVP level of the specific company spent all their time with each other and the C-Suite, leading the Director level to be actually running the company day-to-day with no real insight, because the higher levels were holed up in meetings. He got mad at the lunch and screamed, “I mean, c’mon (name of SVP), get out there and press the flesh!” I agree.


Step 3: Share credit. Look, even if an idea is amazing and you were the main person that shepherded it through, you weren’t the only person. That almost never happens — that a single person does something from A to Z, and thus can get all the credit. Even in football, if a RB has a great run, it’s still partially the work of an O-Line, a QB, some WRs, a coaching staff, etc. Very little happens in a vacuum.

Cue Kramer:

Leaders can beneficially exploit this phenomenon to build trust by being out in front of the organization’s decisions, says Kramer, so that when good things happen, people recognize that the leader was in charge of the process, even though he or she might share the credit. “And there’s a little bit of evidence that suggests that when leaders are generous at sharing credit, they actually are more trusted,” he says. “It shows that they are fully confident.” Likewise, demonstrating confidence by admitting full responsibility when something goes wrong — even if the leader wasn’t fully responsible — can in some cases enhance a leader’s reputation.

Too much of the working world is about people clinging to what they understand — this is essentially where/what silos are — and then clinging to any shred of credit they can get for something. That’s dumb. Psychologically I understand it — we don’t necessarily treat people all that well at work, or pay them right, or promote them right, or give them the full arsenal of tools they need to do their jobs, so people cling to whatever they can get. Humans are, by definition, territorial. It all makes sense.

But just stop clinging to the Ws and share them. Your team will like you more, and that benefits you more in the long run.


(A) Walk around more and talk to people organically and casually.

(B) Share credit for wins, take credit for some losses.

Two things, both fairly simple — and you’ll be considered a better, more trustworthy leader as a result.



Ted Bauer