Contributor or Pretender: What Are You?

A few weeks ago I discussed one of the most important characteristics of a leader: authenticity. Yet authenticity isn’t just a necessary trait of leaders. It’s something we need to see in our teammates at every level.

So, what do authentic teammates look like? And just as importantly, what do pretenders look like? Today, I want us to do a gut check and examine if we exhibit some of the most important characteristics as contributors to our teams, or if we might bear some traits of a pretender who talks a good game, but refrains from living it out.

5 T’s of Contributors

  • Transparent: Contributors are vulnerable and open. They’re real, show their weaknesses, and have nothing to hide because they know themselves well.
  • True to themselves: They know inwardly if they’ve given their best or not.
  • True to others: If you are true to yourself, you’ll be true to others. If you play games with yourself, you’ll play games with those you lead.
  • Tenacious: Contributors aren’t easily deterred by obstacles or challenges.
  • Travel light: They don’t have a lot of baggage.

Characteristics of Pretenders

  • Shallow: There isn’t a lot of depth in relationships. Pretenders talk about themselves more than they listen and inquire about others.
  • Craves the spotlight: Pretenders look for attention and recognition.
  • Lack of self-awareness: They can’t or won’t see themselves as others see them.
  • Self-centered: They expect others to sacrifice on their behalf. There’s an attitude of “What’s in it for me,” or a feeling that the company owes them.
  • Lots of luggage: Pretenders allow bad past experiences to overshadow their future potential for success.

As you can see, pretenders are basically, well, fake. They’re also hard to trust, which makes them unreliable as teammates. Years ago when I ran our staffing business in Austin I would have my leaders use the contributor/pretender comparison to see if they had contributors or pretenders on their teams. We wanted to make sure our teammates were contributors, and we certainly didn’t want any pretenders promoted to leadership positions.

The contributor/pretender comparison is a great reminder for us to make sure we’re intentionally serving our teammates with the right motives and heart.

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