Today I want to discuss leadership pet peeves number 2 from my post: http://www.upwardedge.com/2011/05/lessons-learned-bad-bosses-leaders.html and that is: A leader or boss who takes credit for the ideas or works of his or her subordinates. I worked for a boss who not only criticized my management style, but often would ignore or criticize my ideas.
He would say, “it won’t work; it’s too expensive, the timing is not right, I can’t buy into that or I don’t like the idea.” However, within a few months or sometimes within weeks, he would present to the board of directors and/or to other leadership team members one of my ideas as his own. Other times, I have also seen one of my earlier ideas implemented by a sister organization, to the excitement of my superiors. I would hear occasionally, “Tony wasn’t that your idea?”
You may be thinking why a leader or boss would reject an idea that could benefit the company and the people its serves. Some guesses are as follows:
- The leader or boss sees his or her subordinate as a competitor; therefore, the leader’s insecurity is heightened.
- The leader or boss has no confidence in his subordinate, does not see him or her as a credible performer and thus, the boss filtered what he or she hears coming from the subordinate.
The second bullet does not apply in this case because one of my former bosses took credit for many of my ideas.
Robert Verganti said there are many reasons why a boss may not accept ideas from a subordinate and one way to offset those reasons Verganti argued is to involve the chief executive at the incubator stage of your idea (http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/08/how_to_sell_an_idea_to_your_bo.html).
Another writer, John Baldoni, author of the book: Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up reported that he was conducting a workshop about leading from the middle when a participant mentioned he was “put in his place” when he presented new ideas to his boss.
Baldoni stated that when bosses reject the ideas of their subordinates the bosses are “very insecure in their positions and feel that creativity from below is a threat to their power http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2010/12/how_to_sell_an_idea_to_your_bo_1.html. Baldoni also believes that those bosses don’t deserve to be in positions of authority, but nevertheless they are and because of that many innovative ideas are lost.
Of course, I was reminded of this when one of my subordinates shared an innovative idea with me. Thinking that it was a great idea, I shared it with my superiors. The creator of the idea was in the room as I shared it and gave her full credit. Others quickly turn to H…to compliment her for the great idea. Her smile and glowing face was priceless. This reminded me of how I felt when I was not given due credit for my ideas.
The bottom line– it matters to the person who has the idea to receive due credit and recognition. In this ways everyone wins–the company, the customer and yes, even the boss wins because he or she will be recognized as the person who created an environment where ideas are possible. It is the bosses’ job to create an organizational climate where ideas can flourish and be shared.