From Getting Stars to Giving Them

Being a leader is sacrificial... it will cost you.

In 1955, the first polio vaccine was introduced at a large press conference by Jonas Salk. He was publicly credited as a miracle worker in polio vaccine development, but at an important press conference, Jonas Salk purposefully refused to acknowledge the work of colleagues and his lab researchers. He burned every bridge with his colleagues and the scientific community. Coincidentally, he never won a Nobel prize and was never elected to the National Academy of Sciences, but his colleagues went on to win multiple Nobel prizes. Jonas Salk had a ‘gold star getting’ mindset.

My son goes to daycare. Sometimes when he gets home from school, the first thing he shows me is a sticker on his shirt or hand. He is beaming from ear to ear and can’t wait for me to mention it. When I ask him how he got it he says, “I was a good listener,” or “I helped the teachers out today”. I can see the pride in his eyes.

Make no mistake, it feels great to get stars. In our work, we might not receive small star stickers on our shirts or hands, but a nod of approval from the leadership or a quick praise from your supervisor can sure make us beam with pride like a sticker for a 4-year-old. When we are in a new leadership role, it feels necessary to get some quick wins under our belt and earn those stars. Unfortunately, this is not the mindset of a leader. It is the mindset of a doer. We need to change our perspective from getting stars to giving stars. Remember the quote at the beginning, “Being a leader is sacrificial… it will cost you.”

Hints you are still in a getting star mindset:

  • You present every project your team has worked on.

  • You don’t give credit for projects when praised.

  • You justify your input to projects as more important.

  • You find it hard to watch someone else get praised.

  • You think that praise should be handed out sparingly.

  • You use “I” or “me” language more than “we” and “us”.

  • You find it hard to trust others to take the project to the finish line.

5 easy things to grow into a star giving mindset.

  1. Focus on catching people doing things right instead of doing things wrong.

  2. Dote on your people to your superiors and peers.

  3. Write one individual, handwritten note per month thanking your people for a specific contribution.

  4. Whenever possible, let your people present the end result.

  5. Give more high fives or handshakes when someone gets something right.

Over time, being a star giver feels much better than being a star getter. When your team wins… you win!


Having a hard time with this one? Feel that you could do more, but don't know how to get the results you want out of your people? Our leadership coaches can work directly with your or your team to help increase effectiveness, moral, and much more. Click the link below to tell us more about you and your team.