How to be a strong leader by putting others first

The power of celebration

Celebrating wins

When most people think about leadership, one of the first things that comes to mind is competition.

The feeling of being better than everyone else can be addicting. In fact, you’ve probably been the victim of misdirected competition. In and of itself, competition is not a bad thing. It helps you to overcome obstacles and pushes you forward. Competitive people usually have a slight edge over those who are not very competitive.

My argument is not that competition is wrong. Competition is easily misdirected and has the tendency to hurt people when used incorrectly. So a leader, one who really has the needs of other people in mind, should use caution when the competitive spirit leaps upon them.

You’ve seen people, and leaders, who couldn’t stand to lose at anything. Every conversation either turns into an argument or a brag session about their accomplishments. Most of us have seen leaders who, inadvertently, sabotage other organizations or even those underneath their own leadership because they have such a strong desire to compete and win. Many of these leaders may not even realize that they are undermining their own efforts to lead people, every single time they launch out into competition.

So…if competition can be so volatile to a leader’s leadership, what is the cure? And for those who may be afraid that they are too competitive, how should they react?

If you are a leader who really wants to lead with kindness and put others first, I think the answer to an overly competitive spirit is very simple:

Celebrate someone else’s win.

Certainly, it isn’t possible to celebrate every win of every person who comes under your leadership. Actually, you probably won’t know about every win that the people you lead experience; but that’s not the point. The point is, when you hear that someone experienced a great win in their life or work…even in their personal life and family, you as the leader need to find a way to celebrate their win.

Don’t fall into the trap of automatically turning on your competitive spirit. Don’t allow yourself to think, “I could’ve done that a long time ago, and probably done it better.” Don’t allow yourself to immediately begin comparing yourself with others.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Kind leaders genuinely place the wins of people on a pedestal and celebrate with them and for them” quote=”Kind leaders genuinely place the wins of people on a pedestal and celebrate with them and for them”]

Why do kind leaders do this? For one, they care genuinely about other people more than they care about themselves. But kind leaders also recognize that whatever seeds they plant will eventually grow in their own lives too. They know that when they celebrate others, they won’t have to celebrate their own wins because other people will do that for them too.

The competitive spirit usually seeks to gain glory and show itself off. It wants other people to view how great it is; but leadership isn’t about how great you are, it’s about how great you can make other people. Influence happens when you make other people great. We are immediately drawn to those who put us first.

Let me just say that this should never be used as a tool to manipulate people’s feelings. In fact, you cannot celebrate someone’s win with the wrong motives. Your motives will always shine through. Leadership by its very nature puts the leader in a spotlight that exposes motives and plans. So be careful and check your heart as you celebrate someone’s win with them and for them.

Celebrating someone’s win is a powerful way to solidify your leadership in their life:

It lets people know that you care about them.

When you put the wins other people make, out front, it let’s them know that they are valued. They understand that you care about them enough to show off their success. Leading with kindness makes a much greater impact on people than leading from the leverage point of fear or power. People don’t like leaders who lead out of fear and power. When they have the chance to stop following them, they will. But when you lead out of kindness and put other people’s wins center stage, they know that you didn’t have to do it. You chose to do it.

It motivates them to win again.

Celebrating someone’s win is a strong motivator to push forward, work harder, get up from a fall, and win again. We all crave acceptance and favor. I believe God made us this way. When you as a leader celebrate with someone, they get a sense that you value what they accomplished and they will want to win again and again.

It builds a relational bridge.

If you want to build relationships with people as their leader, there isn’t a much more powerful way to do that than genuinely celebrating the things that they do right. When you praise someone’s work, they will want to know you better. When you mention their name and connect it with accomplishment, they will seek out your friendship. You as a leader gain the opportunity to pour into a person’s life when you open the door to their heart through celebrating their wins.

We’ve all found ourselves on the flip side of this at one time or another. Maybe you put your heart into coming up with a great idea, only to have someone else (the leader) take your idea and claim it as their own, giving you no credit at all. Now, you probably aren’t working for the credit; but the credit is still nice to have…right?

Let me ask you a question…when a leader doesn’t seem to recognize your hard work or care about what you’ve accomplished for his or her organization, how does that make you feel? Not. Good.

The statement has been made, and I believe it, that people don’t quit organizations. People quit people. People quit leaders who compete against their work and seek to undermine their gifting. If you are a leader, you need to recognize that you are stifling the abilities of those you lead every time you fall into the competitive spirit trap.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Influence happens when you make other people great.” quote=”Influence happens when you make other people great.”]

Here are just a few ways to celebrate someone else’s win:

  • Congratulate them personally.


  • Speak well of their accomplishment publicly


  • Talk good about them “behind their back”.

Obviously, the most important aspect of celebrating someone’s win is the simple recognition you give. Always choose to celebrate. Celebrating wins will make a huge difference in your level of influence with others and in the life of the one you build up by doing it.

Larry Shankle is a pastor, author, and blogger. He helps people get clarity and direction in their calling, purpose, dreams, and leadership.

Larry and his wife (Amanda) live in the Arkansas river valley with their two boys (Braxton and Dawson). He has spent almost two decades in active local church ministry serving in multiple leadership roles. Larry has spent the last six and a half years serving as Lead Pastor of GrandviewChurch in Natural Dam, AR.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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