Leadership Letters
Leadership Letters

Writings on Christian leadership and leader development by Malcolm Webber

October 1999
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Leaders Encourage the Heart – Part 2

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

In “The Leadership Challenge,” James Kouzes and Barry Posner show that leaders:

  1. Challenge the process.
  2. Inspire a shared vision.
  3. Enable others to act.
  4. Model the way.
  5. Encourage the heart.

5. Leaders encourage the heart (continued).

Accomplishing great things through organizations is hard work. To keep hope and determination alive, leaders recognize the contributions their people make. And because every winning team needs to share in the rewards of their corporate efforts, leaders celebrate accomplishments. Leaders are cheerleaders; they make everyone a part of the victory. Encouraging the heart does not only involve recognizing individual achievements; it also means celebrating the efforts of the entire group.

In Exodus 17:8-15 and in other places, the Old Testament saints built memorials to the great works of God. They stopped and rehearsed those works and built something to signify them and to remind them of God’s faithfulness in the future. Leaders should do this in their organizations. They should frequently pause and rehearse some of the victories God has given them. It is so easy in our fast paced society to rush past the faithfulness of God, and to just take it for granted. We need to pause and build memorials to the faithfulness of God to our organizations. In celebrating team accomplishments, leaders will:

a. Celebrate the right things. Celebrations should call attention to and reinforce key organizational values. This will let others know what is valued. Moreover, there must be consistency between what the leader espouses and what he celebrates. The celebration must be an honest expression of commitment to certain key values and to the hard and sacrificial work of the people who have lived those values.

b. Celebrate publicly. The public nature of celebrations makes people’s actions more visible to others and helps to bond the people together as a team.

c. Schedule regular celebrations. Some celebrations should be spontaneous, but leaders should also have certain organizational celebrations at the same time each year. Nations do this to remind their people of their common struggles, sacrifices, legacies and continuing responsibilities to each other. As a minimum, each organization should have at least one celebration each year that involves everyone.

d. Join in the celebration. Celebrations are great times for leaders to personally connect with their constituents, creating a commonness (“we’re all in this together”) as well as a deeper level of shared vision, values and experiences. The leader does not necessarily have to lead the celebration, but he should participate in it.

e. Have fun. Without having some fun sometimes, few people will be able to handle the level of intensity and hard work required for high achievement. Researchers have found a significant relationship between fun and productivity! So, lighten up; enjoy life a little!

f. Create social support networks. Supportive relationships are critically important to maintain personal and organizational vitality. Through celebrating accomplishments, leaders help create these networks of relationships. As organizational members interact on more than just a professional level, their personal relationships are nurtured and they will grow in their love and caring for each other. Furthermore, without group celebrations, it is easy for individuals to believe that the organization revolves around their individual work. Thus, celebrations reinforce the truth that we are all dependent on, and responsible for, one other (1 Cor. 12:14-26).

g. Stay passionate. Of all the things that sustain a leader over time, love is the most enduring – his love for God and for the people he’s leading. Through celebrations, the leader can communicate this love to his people, and a passion communicated can be a passion imitated.

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