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Encouraging the Heart – the Leadership Challenge

Submitted by on Wednesday, 14 August 2013No Comment

Encouraging the Heart – the Leadership Challenge

Encouraging the HeartEncouraging the Heart is the fifth practice in Kouzes and Posner’s The Leadership Challenge Workshop and also one that our more analytically-minded participants (read engineers, IT-types and process-oriented professionals) have professed difficulty demonstrating.

The simple definition of this practice is recognising what counts.

So what counts? What should we, as leaders, recognise and give praise for?

‘Easy’, our analytical types will shout back at us. ‘KPIs achieved. Jobs done. Tasks completed.’

‘By whose definition?’ We may ask back.

Stony silence. A flustering of papers.

And here’s the problem in the workplace. Because, as we all know, the way one person measures you (imagine your boss!) may not be the same way another person measures you (imagine a customer).

Here’s a follow-up question we think is worth asking: what if the customer is happy with you but the boss is not?

This kind of dilemma happens all the time in the workplace and as we know from the research again and again is a key cause of employee disengagement. So what gives?

The Leadership Challenge defined…

Leadership, as Kouzes and Posner note, is a journey.

Just as in life, only on a few occasions do we get presented with a milestone or success that recognises the many steps of that journey. A key practice of the leader is to recognise those steps – even if there is no milestone, KPI checkbox or similar measurement to do so. Leadership, then, is all about intangibles. And, as leaders, we seek to close the gap between the goal and our followers, described in The Lantern and the Lighthouse here.

Einstein famously said that not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

This is where precisely leadership comes in.

Encouraging the Heart… in the moment

So how – and for what – do we give our followers recognition when there are no checkboxes or milestones? After all, The Leadership Challenge exhorts us to encourage the heart on a daily basis… surely there must be a formula of sorts?

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Here’s a simple rule of thumb using the ‘4S’s of Situation, Strengths, Sacrifice and Spirit.


Praise or recognise a follower when he or she handles a situation well, even if the outcome did not ‘meet target’.


Praise or recognise a follower for his or her strengths – for example the person may be highly efficient, which enables you, as the leader, to concentrate on other areas that matter.


Praise or recognise a follower who makes a sacrifice of some kind, for example giving up his or her time in order to achieve a team goal, being on hand at short notice, or even working in an area outside his or her strengths – though please note in this last instance as leader you will want to make sure that this does not become a habit, for reasons shared here.


Lastly, you can recognise the follower for his or her spirit (or soul) – the attitude or effort he or she has brought to a task even if that effort did not end in success. (This last point is very important).

Here’s the rule of thumb again (click to enlarge the graphic below):

Situation – Strengths – Sacrifice – Spirit

Encouraging the Heart

Encourage the Heart with the Leadership Challenge Workshop!

If you find these tips useful then you’ll love The Leadership Challenge Workshop, which makes the often daunting challenge of leading really easy.

More details of the workshop are here, or get full documentation following this link:


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