True leader’s heart is the one that bridges the connection between him and his team members | Daily News

True leader’s heart is the one that bridges the connection between him and his team members

Imagine for a moment that you work in a cherished company and your team shared a common goal, or standard for excellence in your work. Imagine your leader believed your team could and would be able to be “the best” at what you do. What if your leader was out on the front line paying attention to the things your team did right and noting how your team contributed or how your team exceeded standards?

And what if your leader took the time to talk about your team’s accomplishments and actually discussed which team members really went above and beyond normal expectations. Then, imagine further that he gathered your team all in a room to tell the story of your team’s accomplishment, to enjoy the moment of celebration and remind your team of the company’s common goal.

I imagine that would somehow set an example of positive belief in your team’s abilities and worth in what they are doing. I also imagine that would help you to solidify your understanding of what you and your team are trying to achieve and how you could contribute more.

The moral of the story is simple. The heart of a leader must be a caring one. Without this heart, his leadership will be without purpose. A leader's heart is the one that bridges the connection between him and his team members.

Opening Oneself

Everything starts within as a leader. Most leaders fail to recognize the efforts of others because expressing genuine appreciation means showing emotions. For most people expressing emotions is a weakness. This is what happened to someone I know. He was afraid of praising his staff and their good work because he did not want to be perceived as playing favourites. However, he realized that his staff did really deserve to be recognized.

During a presentation, he publicly thanked people for fostering a collaborative spirit on the project. He later realized that what he had done established a human connection with his colleagues that had not been there before. After that, communication was more open among his staff and he felt less guarded and people responded with a new level of enthusiasm for his leadership.

People like to be recognized in different ways– high fives, thank you notes, certificates, free movie tickets, and so many others. It’s great to figure out what makes people tick and what really makes them feel valued. At the very least though, say thank you and acknowledge the good things people are doing. It will make a difference. Show people with both words and actions that you appreciate them.

As part of encouraging the heart, the authors of The Leadership Challenge identify two commitments:

Recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence.

Celebrate the values and victories by creating a spirit of community.

Think about a time when someone showed appreciation to you in a way that was meaningful. Regardless of whether it was a grand gesture or a simple handwritten thank you note, you were reminded that you matter. Good leaders personalize recognition rather than going with a one-size-fits-all approach. They take time to get to know folks personally and thus can be genuine in how they recognize accomplishments.

Leaders have a knack for bringing people together and fostering a sense of community. They realize the importance of creating teams with shared values and mutual respect. They check their egos at the door, and their motto is “if it is to be, it is up to we, not me.”

Challenge these Questions:

How do I show gratitude to those who matter most to me?

In what ways do I encourage my family, friends, and colleagues to be the best they can be?

Do I show my passion and compassion in all that I say, think, and do?

How do I create community, promote teamwork, and celebrate accomplishments with those I lead?

Avoid these

Time after time research reveals that the primary reason employees give for leaving an organization is “limited praise and recognition”. For most people it is most important to feel valued and appreciated. However, most leaders believe that salary, job security, and advancement opportunities are most valued by their employees. As a result, little consideration is given to daily recognition. Ironically, when leaders themselves have been asked what is most important to them they too ranked being appreciated, informed, and listened to as most important.

For some reason, many leaders are uncomfortable with the thought of “encouraging the heart” seeing it as too soft or wimpy. In many organisations, the mere mention of this topic results in laughs and discomfort. Perhaps we have become so used to not receiving recognition and care in the workplace that we’ve lost sight of its importance. Or perhaps we are still uncomfortable talking about our feelings in the workplace. Yet evidence reveals that our feelings are important, regardless of our level in the organization.


Following are some techniques to assist leaders when encouraging the Heart:

Set Clear Standards

It is critical that recognition revolves around valued behaviour within the organization; appreciating those individuals who have demonstrated stellar performance based on clear expectations. When this element is apparent, recognition becomes an opportunity to reiterate what is valued; while reminding people how important they are to the organization.

Expect the Best

There is an old saying: “we get what we expect.” When leaders assume incompetence is all around them, that is exactly what they will find. Alternatively, when leaders expect greatness, it will surely show up. Many of you may be familiar with the Pygmalion Effect, a theory which states that even if the employee does not believe in themselves initially, when others show their belief in them, the employee’s confidence will rise. People have a tendency to live up or down to your expectations as a leader.

Pay Attention

Far too often, leaders spend their time in the “field” identifying problems and coaching to opportunities. When this occurs, the number of missed opportunities for catching people doing things well is immeasurable. Kouzes and Posner take a familiar concept of MBWA (Management by Walking Around) to a new level in what they refer to as CBWA (Caring by Walking Around); a very important one-word difference. Effective leaders not only notice what employees are doing well but recognize the significance of their actions.

Personalize Recognition

The most effective leaders know what is important to each individual and customize their recognition to be most meaningful to the person. When the recognition is in direct alignment with the individual’s values and priorities, even the smallest token can have tremendous impact. In my experience, I have seen organizations put a lot of money into recognition programs, yet when the delivery is impersonal it completely diminishes the value of the investment.

Celebrate Together

As we continue to move into a virtual business world through e-mails, teleconferences, and cell phones, social support is not as prevalent as it once was in the workplace. Public ceremonies not only provide a forum for reiterating standards and values, but they also give people an opportunity to come together and become closer. I continually hear people say one of the primary reasons they come to work is because of the people they work with. Yet, we often don’t provide the needed opportunities to nurture this desire for social interaction. In fact, many leaders view public celebrations as wasteful with so much work that needs to get done, while overlooking the important fact that satisfied employees are productive employees.

Set the Example

Leaders must model expected behaviour. In order to create a culture of celebration, the leader must go first. As a leader, it is critical to walk around and get to know the people, inquire on what is important to each individual and take note of what they are doing. This is not an easy practice, it takes diligence and effort to establish clear standards and then support others in achieving them. As Kouzes and Posner state, “When leaders do get personally involved in encouraging the heart, the results are always the same: the receiver and the giver both feel uplifted. The reflection in the mirror is the one you portray.”

Create the conditions for success

Controlling leaders have low credibility. Inspecting, correcting, and checking up on people signal a lack of trust. Create an atmosphere of trust and confidence to show that you fully believe that the outcome will be the best and that you are not constantly worrying that the worst will happen.

Post Note

In few workshops this writer had facilitated, it was noticed that many managers and leaders really do not usually show appreciation nor give recognition to what their teams, especially individual staff, have accomplished and contributed to achieving the standards

Some reasons given by managers and leaders for not giving credit where credit is due include, “they’re just doing their job,” “we may be seen as playing favourites,” and” they may think we are not sincere.

Whatever, the reasons one may have, it is necessary for the managers to reflect on their most memorable recognition received and given, do a self-assessment of their current practices against the Encouragement Index, and then create an action plan for building up the use of the seven essentials. That is the only way the managers themselves can reach the aspirations set for themselves by the higher management.

(Lionel Wijesiri is a retired company director with over 30 years’ experience in senior business management. Presently he is a freelance journalist and could be contacted on [email protected])


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