It was the summer before my senior year at West Point and I was half-way across the world and half-way through a five-week stint playing the role of an Army aviation platoon leader. I had come a long way in the few weeks since I showed up as a clueless cadet. At the very least, I had figured out a few of the symbols on a status report, so I was no longer making a fool of myself at maintenance meetings.
The mistake came in a meeting I had with the company leadership. During the meeting, my commander asked me about the status of a few missions he had given me, one of which was transporting one of our tugs to another Army airfield. I had delegated the mission to my platoon sergeant, Staff Sergeant Fletcher, who had taken care of the whole thing and given me confirmation that it had arrived. When Captain Pippin asked if I had gotten the tug to Gieblestadt, I said, “Yes, sir. It arrived yesterday afternoon.”
After the meeting the XO pulled me aside. “You missed a big opportunity in there,” he said.
“Really?” I was genuinely surprised. I felt like I was finally getting the hang of this.
“Sure, you’re getting things done,” he admitted, “but, that’s the easy part. The hard part is the leading.”
“What do you mean?”
“When the CO asked if you got the tug to Gieb, you just said, ‘yes’. You should have said, ‘Yes, sir. Sergeant Fletcher made it happen. We heard from them yesterday that it had arrived.’ You see, if you had said that, you still would have gotten the credit—you’re the leader, you made it happen—but Sergeant Fletcher gets the credit as well. Never pass up a chance to let your soldiers shine.”
Reflecting on this later, I realized that I didn’t want to share the limelight with Sergeant Fletcher. I thought sharing the limelight meant I would get less of it. Not so. Sharing credit as a leader doesn’t diminish your share of the recognition, it enhances it. Which is more impressive: getting things done or equipping, encouraging, and empowering a team of others that gets things done?
How are you at sharing the credit as a leader?