Leadership Tip of the Week: "I Versus We"

As a leader, use “I” to take the blame and “we” to take praise.

Leaders should put their people first. No one likes a selfish, self-centered or narcissistic leader (see Kevin Dawson's paper on narcissistic leaders).

You can use a simple assessment called the “I Versus We Test to evaluate whether or not a leader is self-centered. To use the test, listen to the leader. Does he or she  use “I” or “we” more often? More importantly,  is it “we” when receiving praise and “I” when receiving blame, or does the person use “I” when receiving praise and “we” when receiving blame? This will tell you whether a leader is “team first” or “self-first.”

Simon Sinek wrote a book on this concept titled “Leaders Eat Last.” The book challenges leaders to put their team before themselves. The title is based on the military tradition where leaders eat after their team. This ensures that the team has enough food and is taken care of before the leader. There were many times in the military where I ate last and was left with smaller portions or no portions at all. Although I was hungry, I was glad it happened to me and not one of my soldiers. They deserved better.  I knew they were our greatest resource. I also knew it was my responsibility as a leader to take care of them.

Try using the “I vs. We Test” this week, especially on yourself. It will serve as a reminder that you have to put your team first.

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April 2, 2018 at 9:41 am
Ben Capriato

Great post!

October 29, 2018 at 10:32 pm
Dating with Narcissist

No one can easily spend the easy time with narcissism guy, the doctor always says that keep your balance from them because they always love themselves. The narcissism person thinks always himself as a modern and famous. Narcissism is one of nature and who has it, he always thinking about yourself and love himself always. Anyone will do well if they try not to do the narcissistic things their parent do. Thanks for sharing this experience this blog.

January 21, 2022 at 12:59 pm

Is promoting a culture of giving individual kudos to those that fight fires also a form of not using "we" to take praise? Even if you speak about team effort in the process, and direct the praise at "you all", I believe this practice works against the "we" for praise idea. These same leaders would also NEVER, EVER, use I when taking blame, but I think that is far pervasive in corporate America, unless you work for the Googles and Apples.

December 25, 2022 at 11:15 am
chitoh Infj

Thank you for sharing


Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.