In our last newsletter, I discussed the importance of emotional intelligence in leadership. In this newsletter, we are going to focus on four actions that you can do to encourage your team members. These four actions include expecting the best, paying attention, personalizing recognition, and setting the example. All of these are great actions that align themselves with servant leadership.
Expecting the Best
The first action involves expecting the best from yourself, each individual on your team, and the team as a whole. Charles Kettering, famed American inventor once said, “High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.” Having high expectations is proven to yield higher results from individuals. The famous Rosenthal study in the education setting is a prime example of this. The study had some teachers who were told that certain students were “gifted” while other similar students were not given the same tag. At the end of the study, testing showed that the so-called “gifted” students scored much higher than the other students who were in the same educational environment. The teachers expected the best of those “gifted” students and provided them with the additional support and encouragement needed to achieve more. By expecting the best, you can help your team toward high-performance.
The second action of an encouraging leader involves paying attention. This action is not paying attention for the sake of micro-managing but for the purpose of identifying positive actions, being available, and supportive. Identifying positive behaviors and highlighting them amongst the team creates an atmosphere of people who are relaxed and can do their best resulting in a higher level of engagement. Better engaged employees produce better results. The opposite is true as well, if you only identify negative actions, you will produce a negative atmosphere leading to low morale, more isolated employees, and low engagement and performance.
The next action is personalized recognition that is sincere and specific. Know how your team members want to be recognized. Some people may receive value from the recognition if it comes with an award like a gift card, while others may want recognition in front of their peers. Some people want the complete opposite and resent being acknowledged publicly even if it is positive. Going back to the last newsletter again, employing emotional intelligence by paying attention is important so you recognize team members in ways that meet their needs.
Setting the Example
The last action of an encouraging leader is to set an example for your team. Whether it be ethical behavior, work ethic, or helping others, you set the tone for your team and organization. The behaviors you model will contribute to setting the norm. This is powerful. I was reminded of this recently when a client expressed demoralized with leaders in his organization who communicated, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Being a servant leader is a style that incorporates all of these encouraging actions. It is about putting the other person before yourself. In the area of business, servant leadership can be defined as “a philosophy that places the needs of employees and teams ahead of the leader with the goal of fostering success” (Milner, 2018). Practicing these four acts of encouraging will help you foster a great culture and lead your team to greater success.
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For the Faith-based:
We all need to be encouraged at times and the Bible has many examples of encouraging leaders. We see that a faith-oriented leader always seeks the Lord first in prayer. Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” By committing our ways to the Lord, the Lord establishes the next steps.
Nehemiah is one example of an encouraging leader in the Bible. Nehemiah was the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes when he was informed about the condition of Jerusalem his homeland. Distressed by this news, Nehemiah prayed and asked God for favor in obtaining permission from Artaxerxes to go rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The king granted his request. While there, Nehemiah encountered hostility and heard that enemies planned an attack. Once again Nehemiah prayed. He believed his people were capable and worthy of this work and encouraged them to continue to work without fear and trust in God. Despite the challenges, Nehemiah went on to rebuild the wall in an incredible fifty-two days.
In this example of Nehemiah, we can see the four acts of an encouraging leader. Nehemiah first paid attention to the condition of the people in Jerusalem and he set a great example of a servant leader when he prayed first and listened to God to go lead the restoration of the wall and the people. Nehemiah didn’t trust in his own abilities, but God’s and he expected the best from his people. At the end of this amazing feat, all of his people were recognized with a celebration of the accomplishment. Nehemiah led by example, expecting the best in faith while encouraging the people to trust in God. “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Proverbs 11:14).
Milner, B. (2018, December 19). 3 Ways To Use Servant Leadership In Your Organization. Retrieved February 13, 2020, from https://agilevelocity.com/leadership/3-ways-to-use-servant-leadership-in-your-organization/