Windows and Mirrors

Latin woman looking out window

But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. -Matthew 23:12

Conventional wisdom would tell you to "blow your own horn" to get recognized and advance. However, this negates the importance of surrounding yourself with great people who will be the true drivers of your career. Great people want to work for someone who gives them the credit, rather than keeping the honors and minimizing their contribution.

Jim Collins, in his analysis of the highest levels of leadership in Good to Great writes: {Level 5 Leaders} look out the window, not in the mirror, to apportion credit for the success of the company—to other people, external factors, and good luck. {They} look in the mirror, not out the window, to apportion responsibility for poor results, never blaming other people, external factors, or bad luck. (page 36)

Leaders who are “windows” - are secure in their leadership and don't need to draw attention to their performance. They happily share credit and highlight their people, as they know this credit sharing has two major benefits—it motivates the team to achieve even higher performance and it builds loyalty for the leader.

Leaders who are "mirrors" - accept responsibility for failures. They earn their pay and title by shielding their teams from corporate wrath. The focus of the team becomes course correction rather than blame shifting. The team also learns to take risks, knowing the leader "has their back" if the risk doesn't succeed.

The best leaders extensively recognize the contributions of their people at all levels. This reinforces positive behaviors and creates strong loyalty.

Action Points

  • Think about how often you "blow your own horn" and how often you give others the credit.
  • When things go right, do you take the credit or give credit to the team?
  • Conversely, when things go wrong, whom do you blame?
  • How often do you take the time to recognize the people who work for you, verbally and with small gifts?


Stronger teams, greater loyalty, a willingness to take risks, higher performance

Excerpted from Chapter 34, Windows and Mirrors, of The Surpassing Life: 52 Practical Ways to Achieve Personal Excellence,

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