#157: The Give and Take of Extraordinary Leaders

It’s not what you think

Extraordinary leaders come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common; they all understand the importance of give and take.

Give and Take Leaders

And by give and take, I am not talking about their ability to negotiate, or their ability to compromise!

No! I am talking about the ability to give credit and take responsibility!

Sadly, when I was a young leader in my early twenties, I was not very good at giving credit or taking responsibility.

If my team of salespeople did especially well in making a breakthrough sale, I made sure the boss knew their accomplishment was because of the superior training and leadership I had provided.

My team had an exceptional year and led the division in our most important sales metrics. When my boss and his boss asked what contributed to the success I talked at length about the training I had provided the team throughout the course of the year. Honestly, it never occurred to me to highlight the individual successes of my salespeople that contributed to our outstanding results.

If, on the other hand, one of my salespeople made a mistake that cost the company money I did my best to make sure the light of incompetency shined only on my employee.

We once had a particularly complicated promotion allowance. After carefully explaining how it worked, one of my sales representatives proceeded to misrepresent the offer to a number of customers. It cost the company several hundred dollars to make good on the sales rep’s mistake. I threw my sales rep squarely under the bus as I explained to my boss how the mistake was the sales rep’s alone. After all, the rest of the team got it right.

I am not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point after becoming a Christian, I recognized this propensity to take credit for other people’s work and avoid responsibility for failures wasn’t right. In fact, as a young Christian, I decided I would give other people credit whenever possible, and always take responsibility for issues within my team.

I started out small by encouraging my team members individually and privately. Then, as I saw how this built them up, I started publicizing their successes publically to other members of the team.  We were suddenly gaining significant traction as a group.

Next, I started telling my bosses how great my sales people were; how they had made great sales against all odds. And I left myself out of the story.

The first time something did go wrong, I stood quaking in front of my boss, and simply said, “I messed up, I’ll fix it.” I refused to throw anyone under the bus. To my great surprise (and relief) the boss just said, “Good. Take care of it.” I found taking responsibility was actually easier than trying to make up excuses to cover myself.

That year was a transformative year for me as a leader. I went from taking credit and avoiding responsibility, to giving credit and taking responsibility.

Giving credit became a bit of a game to me. I would spot someone doing something extraordinary and brag about them. Then I started sending emails to my bosses, as high up as I could reach in the corporate hierarchy, letting them know what great results someone had achieved.

I stepped up my game a little further by starting to brag about the results of people who didn’t even work for me. Anyone who I heard about doing something of note was fair game. I would fire off a memo to their bosses and bosses’ boss to let them know how much they contributed to the organization.

Now here’s the funny thing. I found two very important outcomes that derived from my new “giving credit” leadership philosophy:

  • The more bragging I did about others, the fewer things ever went wrong. I rarely had to stand in front of the boss and take responsibility for a project that went sideways because it almost never happened.
  • The more I gave credit to others, the more recognition I received from my bosses for being a good leader.

So in the end, the very thing I sought as a young leader; recognition and respect for my skills, was achieved not when I focused on myself, but when I focused on everyone else.

Paul had it right when he wrote to the Ephesians in 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you worked for leaders who gave credit and took responsibility? What was that like compared to those who took credit and avoided taking responsibility?

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Category: Relationships | Encouragement



#045: Do You Need Encouragement? Be An Encourager!

Are you feeling lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut? Do you need someone to lift you out of that funk? Get up and go look in the mirror, because the solution to your need for encouragement is looking right back at you! That’s right, if you need encouragement the answer just might be for you to be an encourager.


I found this to be true in my own life. There have been times when my usually sunny disposition was blocked by dark clouds of discouragement. But, when I’ve made the effort to encourage someone else I feel better. In fact, the more I encourage others, the better I feel. The dark clouds of discouragement begin to part, allowing my sunny disposition to reappear.

It turns out I am not the first one to experience the benefit of being an encourager. The apostle Paul did as well! Paul had spent 3-1/2 years establishing and building the church in Ephesus. During that time a wealthy man named Philemon heard Paul, and became a disciple of Christ. Philemon returned home to Colossae and in time, a church was established there meeting in Philemon’s house. Onesimus, one of Philemon’s slaves, ran away to Rome. Onesimus ended up meeting Paul and becoming a Christian himself. He no doubt told Paul about the church that met in his master Philemon’s home, because in his letter back to Philemon Paul says:

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#042: Five Elements of Powerful Encouragement

No individual performs at their peak over the long haul without encouragement. More than salary and great benefits, the sense of value that comes from encouragement builds self-esteem and loyalty.

Encouragement Blackboard

A recent Gallup poll found that only 13% of workers worldwide are engaged at work. And if that weren’t bad enough a full 24% are actively disengaged. Imagine the productivity gains that might result if employees were fully engaged at work!

A survey by Jobstreet.com reported the top five reasons employees leave their jobs included lack of recognition. Further, they found that while many employees will leave for more money, they will stay if they love what they are doing!

Encouragement is one of the best tools employers have for providing recognition that builds employee self-esteem and ultimately loyalty to the employer. And the best part is encouragement is free! It just takes some thoughtfulness and a few minutes of your time.

Barnabas, whose name means “Son of Encouragement,” is perhaps the best Biblical example of an encourager. His ability to encourage others had a major impact on several men and their ministries. Let look at one specific example to see what we can learn from Barnabas.

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#027: God Equips, Encourages, and Enables You for His Service

God equips, enables, and encourages, us for His service. God does not ask us to do what He has not Equipped, Enabled, and Encouraged us to do!

Encouragement, Joshua, Service

A quick look at Joshua 1 demonstrates God equipping, enabling, and encouraging Joshua for the work that lies ahead.

1) Equipping. Joshua was among the twelve that were selected to spy out the land of Canaan, and along with Caleb were the only two that recommended conquering the land.  Joshua became a military commander, leading the Israelites on to many great victories. All this time, God was equipping him to do the specific work He had planned: to lead the nation Israel into the Promised Land.

2) Enabling. God enabled Joshua’s victory. Three times God told Joshua to “be strong and courageous” (v 6, 7, 18). The key to victory came from God’s power as Joshua led the Israelites by faith. Joshua’s name meant, “Jehovah is salvation,” so as long as Joshua and the people remembered that God is the source of their power and their salvation they would succeed in all that God gave them to do.

3) Encouraging. God appointed Joshua as the new leader of the nation Israel after Moses died. This is an enormous task of great responsibility. God encouraged Joshua with a promise of success (v6), and His continual presence (v9):

6  “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Joshua 1:6 (NASB)
9  “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NASB)


If you are in the workplace you are in ministry. Your pastor has an hour or so once a week to impact people with the truth of God’s Word, but His soldiers in the workplace have 40-60 hours per week in which their example for God stands before men. I believe every workplace is an opportunity for ministry and believe that God has equipped you for that service. And if you will, by faith, engage in that service God will encourage and enable you to serve Him.

What has God equipped you to do in the workplace to serve Him? Are you doing it? If not, what is holding you back?

 Join the Conversation!

As always questions and comments are welcome. What barriers have you encountered in workplace ministry? What success have you had?

Category: Relationships | Encouragement