Leadership Letters
Leadership Letters

Writings on Christian leadership and leader development by Malcolm Webber

July 1999
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Leaders Encourage the Heart – Part 1

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

According to “The Leadership Challenge” by James Kouzes and Barry Posner, 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.

Leaders cannot assume their constituents know when they’ve done a job good or that they’re appreciated; leaders must recognize contributions. People need encouragement as they persist in their journey to fulfill the vision, and they need it frequently. This is the leader’s role: to encourage the hearts of the people.

In recognizing contributions, leaders will:

a. Recognize that we all are serving God. It is Him we all will stand before one day, and if we serve Him from our hearts, we will hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt. 25:21). Our ultimate rewards for faithfulness are in eternity. Nevertheless, leaders should not use this as an excuse to deny temporal encouragement to their people.

b. Build confidence through high expectations. Leaders’ belief in others creates a self-fulfilling prophecy: people act in ways that are consistent with their leader’s expectations of them. Leaders who truly believe in their constituents and who express that confidence through high expectations are able to bring out the very best in their people.

c. Connect performance with rewards. People avoid behavior that is punished, repeat behavior that is rewarded and eventually drop behavior that is ignored. Therefore, if long hours and hard work are not noticed, people will soon decrease their efforts. When connecting performance with rewards, leaders should be sure that people know exactly what is expected of them, provide frequent feedback along the way, and reward only those who meet the standards.

d. Use a variety of rewards. The creative use of rewards is a defining characteristic of good leadership. Leaders should use both intrinsic rewards (that are built into the work itself, such as job satisfaction, praise and thank-you notes) and extrinsic rewards (such as material remuneration and promotions). The enthusiasm and motivation of the people will be increased if the reward and recognition system is designed participatively. Finally, peer-, subordinate-, or customer-recognition systems can be highly effective.

e. Be instant in season and out of season. The reward should be given as soon after the accomplishment as possible, so it is directly connected with it. The leader himself should proactively look for people who are doing the right things, and then personally present their reward to show his appreciation, making very specific mention of the reason for the reward.

f. Make recognition public. Public recognition promotes the individual as a model for others to emulate. It also empowers the recipients by increasing their visibility.

g. Be interminably positive and hopeful. Through their encouragement, leaders give their people the courage to endure the tough times and to win great victories. But they must not wait until the final victory is won before encouraging their people. Leaders should build up their constituents all along the way. God does that to us!

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