Public Triumphs And Leadership

Why taking credit for your teams success may be good for your mission.

I always thought that it was bad for the leader to take credit for the accomplishment of their team. I believed that “only the egotistical seek credit since they need a list of accomplishments to prop up their self worth.”

“Serving Leaders direct credit to others.”- Ken Jennings

But there is an interesting counter argument to this that came to mind while reading the biography of Julius Caesar.

The Ancient Roman military leaders who did particularly well while on a campaign would come back to Rome and have an event that was one highest honors in Roman culture: the triumph. This event was a massive parade where the legions marched into Rome with floats that showcased all of the treasure, slaves, and captured heads of state.

At the focal point of the triumph weren’t the legions who were the ones who did the fighting and dying. The focus was the leader and these events were held almost exclusively to increase the military leader’s “auctoritas”.

Auctoritas is a latin word that doesn’t really have a direct english translation but could be understood as a mixture of the clout, prestige, and authority. High auctoritas allowed for an individual to get laws passed easier, raise legions, and rally support around their ideas.

This notion of auctoritas, however, didn’t die with the Roman republic.

Elon Musk is a great modern example of someone who is able to build auctoritas over time by triumphing after many successes. Here are a few examples:

  • Sale of PayPal
  • Successful launch of the Falcon 1
  • Delivered First Tesla Roadster
  • Delivered First Model S
  • Announcement of the Hyperlooop
  • Announcement of Gigafactory
  • Successful landing of Falcon 1 (on land)
  • Delivered First Model X
  • Successful landing of Falcon 1 (at sea)
  • Opening of Gigafactory

Though these accomplishments weren’t celebrated with a Roman style triumph, they were on display very publicly. Each enabled Musk to make bigger claims and take on larger projects.

Being the focal point for accomplishments (aka taking the credit) boosts auctoritas and can help not only the leader, but the organization in a few ways.

First it helps the leader bring people together. Caesar’s friend and then foe Pompey the Great famously could “raise armies merely by stamping his foot on the soil of Italy.” Pompey was able to do this because the auctoritas he built through decades of successful campaigns as one of Rome’s most successful military leaders.

The second reason being the focal point helps is that it gives the leader access to the best people. Musk for instance is famous for saying that SpaceX only hires the top 1% of people. Recruiting from this small pool of candidates is very competitive. Unless, of course, you have Musk level auctoritas which attracts people that know working at SpaceX will be hard but their minds will be put to good use.

The third benefit is the ability to make claims that would sound crazy yet are believable because of the source. Peter Diamandis who founded the X Prize also founded “Planetary Resources” who’s mission is to mine asteroids. This is an idea that without the auctoritas of Diamandis seems impossible yet they are a funded and operating company.

So the next time you and your team has accomplished something stop for a moment and think if you should claim the accomplishment in a public triumph.

Like Caesar, Pompey, and Musk the auctoritas gained will help make your mission easier.

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Jimi Smoot

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Software Developer, Host of “The Prior Transformation” podcast

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