“I helped with…”
“I was part of a team that…”
“I collaborated on…”
The ability to cooperate with others toward a shared goal is an essential – and sometimes underrated and underutilized – skill in a leader. Without it, we’re all a bunch of free agents who don’t have anyone to refine our ideas, pool our resources with, or tame our wild hairs. And humility, the underlying trait that makes cooperation possible, is a mark of a Christ-like life.
But. When we have done a thing, when we have created or supervised or equipped or stabilized or trained or written or founded, we must be able to own it. Not brag about it, but lay claim to it. And here’s why:
- It’s the truth. Truth leads to trust among the parties involved, and trust leads to optimal individual and collective functioning.
- We set others up for failure when we don’t acknowledge our role. If we don’t take proper credit, chances are that someone else will actively seek or passively receive it. Then those folks are given more authority and more responsibility – without the experience and know-how to draw upon.
- We’ve got to practice presenting ourselves accurately to people who have power over our vocations. We must show that we can play well with others. But if we completely blend our leadership identity with that of the people we work with, search teams, judicatory leaders, and those who have the clout to recommend us for positions are left to wonder and assume about our personal capabilities. We miss out on opportunities, and others miss out on our leadership.
- Our self-esteem suffers when we downplay our role. I believe that many people – especially we womenfolk – are generous with success but selfish with failure. By that I mean that if something goes well, it’s because of all of us. If something goes wrong, it’s because of me alone. When we fall short, we should take our lumps but also examine the larger context. When we triumph, we can reflect on how we contributed to the success as a means of grasping and building on our strengths.
- It honors our God-given abilities and calling. We are each fearfully and wonderfully made to be certain people and do certain things. Because of how God equipped me, I was able to do a thing! Acknowledging our role, then, is testimony.
What, then, have you done this week, this month, this year? Make a list, then tuck it away for the next time you have an evaluation, need to fill out a profile, or feel down about your abilities. Pull it out and remember that “I did a thing!”