DNA of Leadership: Encouragement

by | Leadership

Aggressive enough to Affirm – Caring enough to Confront

As late as 2000, leaders were sharing that the number one driving force for them was monetary compensation. A close second was the feeling of being appreciated. More recently, those two elements have swapped places. This is an indication of the primary driving force of today’s leaders.

Encouragement wears two faces; this is certainly a minority opinion. Most will contend that encouragement cannot be married to confrontation. From their perspective, encouragement is positive and confrontation is negative. They would argue that encouragement looks like a pat on the back and a positive statement or applause. The purpose of this brief article is to address that thinking.

A caring enough to confront can set the stage for encouragement. The fact that another cares is encouraging. The problem is that most of us place so much attention on confrontation and so little attention on affirmation. Our challenge is to be sure that our caring shows through the confirmation. Furthermore, we must be aggressive enough to affirm.

The problem is assumption. We assume that others know what we know, know what we wish they knew, or know how we feel when the issue is affirmation. We make sure that they know how we feel when the issue is confrontation. We confront with specificity and intensity—so much so that caring is camouflaged. When the issue is affirmation, we assume that others know how we feel, or our expression of affirmation is bland and robotic.

Emphasize the caring in confronting. Do this by addressing an issue and not attacking a person. Emphasize being aggressive in the affirmation. Make this a goal. Work on it with full vigor. Affirm your team members when appropriate. “We do not grow when you remind us how stupid we are. We grow when you remind us how smart we are.”

If leadership is a right hand “confrontation” and a left hand “affirmation”, unfortunately, many leaders approach their task from a single handed perspective. This does not mean single handed as in one person. It means single handed as in one side of a two-sided leadership coin. There is value in each side: caring enough to confront and aggressive enough to affirm. It will seem awkward at first, but you can learn to think of confrontation as an expression of caring and of affirmation as that which requires an aggressive consciousness on your part.

Stephen is the best-selling author of 26 books, including What Do They See When They See You Coming? He has also written countless articles for a variety of publications and has produced multiple audio books and video programs. Stephen has appeared on PBS Television and XM Sirius Satellite Radio. He continues to hold one of the highest invite-back ratios in the speaking profession.