The Leadership Trait that Changes Everything

David Burchett
David Burchett

I am a lifetime, avid Cleveland Browns fan. I know. Thank you for your prayers. I am more optimistic now than I have been in many years. Part of that hope is some great young players. But another factor is the new head coach. Freddie Kitchens is a down to earth and positive influence on the field. He asks each player what plays they like to run and then implements their ideas into the game plan. The players were blown away by that level of personal involvement.

My first reaction was “why is that deemed unusual”? Why wouldn’t a leader want buy-in and ownership of the game plan? Why wouldn’t a leader create a culture of affirmation? As General Dwight Eisenhower wisely observed. “You don’t lead by hitting people over the head — that’s assault, not leadership.” 

A recent book entitled The Carrot Principle by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton concluded that appreciation might well be the missing accelerator for happiness and self-esteem. Based on a ten-year study that interviewed 200,000 people, Gostick and Elton conclude that appreciation tops the list of things employees say they want from their bosses. For those who worked in offices with high morale an amazing 94 percent reported that they were shown appreciation. Not surprisingly, when employees quit nearly 80 percent cited lack of appreciation as the number one reason.

We have a fundamental need to be affirmed. The authors were surprised at how sparingly this blessing is given to others. That is a wonderful way that you can serve others. Simply affirm and bless them in their gifts and skills.

Affirmation is a game changer for all of us. Here is a snippet about affirmation from my book Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace.

We should not be surprised that people respond positively when they are told how much they matter. More important, we matter to God. His Word is full of affirmation for those who choose to trust Him.

To all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
(John 1:12, NLT)

You are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.
(1 Peter 2:9-10, The Message)

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.
(Ephesians 1:4, NLT)

We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10, NLT)

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
(John 15:15, ESV)

Jesus calls me His friend. Even when those around you are failing to fill up your affirmation bucket, you can still go to Scripture and find out how God feels about you. Is there a more important affirmation than that? When you believe that your heavenly Father recognizes your worth, it gets easier to find things to affirm in others. How can I suffer from a poor self-image if this is true? Jesus calls me friend, for goodness’ sake!

Affirmation is a powerful tool of God’s redemptive grace. Grace says you can still be loved and accepted even after you make terrible decisions and do bad things. That is exactly what happened when God reached out to love me (and you) after our own terrible decisions and bad actions.

When you see leaders who are loved and admired by everyone I suspect you will find this common trait. They are a full time affirmation bucket filler for everyone around them. Are you willing to swap judgement for affirmation? It will be a game changer for you and those you affirm.

It is especially vital for leaders to practice grace and affirmation. I love this insight from author/pastor Max Lucado. “A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.”

Jesus of Nazareth also had some wisdom for leaders.

But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Luke 22:26 – NLT

Read the first chapter of Stay:Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace by clicking this link.

Originally published February 28, 2019.