Elevating Leadership Series: Traits of Extraordinary Leaders Part 5 – Encourage Excellence

Greetings, leaders! This entry marks the conclusion of the Five Traits of Extraordinary Leaders. We’ve discussed Modeling the Way, Creating Shared Vision, Challenging Processes, Enabling Others, and now we’re bringing it home with Encouraging the Heart. Before we get started, I just want to make a plug for the five traits: exhibiting these traits is a choice – we’re either going to do it or not. In doing so, we begin our journey from ordinary leader to extraordinary. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.

Okay, with that out in the universe, let’s finish this up.

By far the best part of leadership are the opportunities to inspire. Being able to reach people–even if it’s only one–is the most fulfilling feeling and is often motivation and purpose all on its own. If only we could inspire our personnel every day. We can’t, though. Inspiration takes energy and can be draining. Sometimes we don’t have the energy, sometimes our team members don’t have the energy, and sometimes it’s a combination of the two. But, there’s one thing we can do no matter the situation: encouragement.

Encouragement goes a long way. Like…a really long way. And, it’s SO easy. Like ninety-seconds-of-your-life easy.

Kenny, in your last entry you said that we shouldn’t flatter. Now, your switching stories.

Okay–I see how this can be a bit confusing. So allow me to make the difference. In my last entry, I discussed empowerment and how flattery did not equal it. Empowerment spurs team members to explore their capabilities and go above and beyond. Like the relationship between empowerment and flattery, encouragement is greater is than flattery. Just from a definitional standpoint, flattery implies hype and hype implies falsehood. Encouragement is in no way false if it’s real.

I don’t have time to remember your English lessons while I’m working, Kenny. I don’t work hard for praise. And, if I don’t, my team members shouldn’t either. I don’t need touchy-feely snowflakes who needs praise.

Why wouldn’t you want to praise your people for working hard? I mean what does it hurt to take thirteen seconds out of your busy day to stop someone and say, ‘Hey, I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for the hard work you put in’? Would that brief pause interrupt your hard work? Would it interrupt your effort? Would it eat up too much of your time? And look, I’m going to be candid here: If your schedule is so tight that you can’t take a moment to praise a team member for the effort he or she puts in – however good or not so good – you have prioritization issues which means that you’re more than likely not an extraordinary leader. And you know what else? That’s okay. You see, there’s only so much room for extraordinary leaders and if you don’t want to be one, that makes more room for those of us who are.

So I’m not extraordinary because I don’t coddle adults?

Coddling, my fellow leader, implies unnecessary protection and fussing over. That’s not the same as encouragement…

Encouragement is taking a moment to say a few words that demonstrate your appreciation for a team member. Perhaps it’s a simple thank you or perhaps it’s a quick discussion of the way a team member approaches objectives. Maybe their effort humbles you, maybe you learn something new from them, or perhaps they fill you with energy. But there’s also the possibility that they’re not doing something right or they could be doing something better. And, the encouragement you give them explains how to do it better and how you appreciate their professionalism and their humility to listen to your critique. Encouragement humanizes us, allowing us to be vulnerable to our team members. In demonstrating appreciation we strengthen bonds. And, if you’re not the type of leader who is comfortable with giving someone a smile and thumbs-up, perhaps you could send a short note in an email or text, or you could make a phone call. Or, you could even ask a manager or two upline of you (if there are any upline of you) to deliver praise infused with referent power. Now, there’s an idea!

There’s no perfect way to encourage. There’s only doing it or not doing it. And doing it makes you an extraordinary leader. Not doing it…well…makes you a pretty standard leader. If you’re content with the latter, cool. But let’s face it, we’re not here because we’re ordinary, we’re here because we’re on the path to being extraordinary.

That sums up trait-based leadership and the five traits of extraordinary leaders. While I’m not a huge proponent of trait-based leadership, the five traits (modeling the way, creating shared vision, challenging processes, enabling others, and encouraging the heart) are undeniable. Through the traits, we have the ability to create an environment where great things can be achieved. Or, we can choose the ordinary route and do nothing great. Either way, as a leader, the choice is ours.

Do you exhibit any or all five of these traits? Do your managers? Do the management training regimens your organizations employ teach your managers the traits of extraordinary leaders and how to employ them? Altitude Consulting offers the training you and your manager want in advanced leadership and management. Email us at consulting.altitude@gmail.com.

Comment below on any additional traits that you think make a leader extraordinary.

Next-up: Skills-based leadership followed by leadership styles?

Keep leading!

Reference: Photo credit to www.thoughtleadershipzen.blogspot.com

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