Encouraging the Heart: A Secret Revealed

A Secret Revealed

Jim Kouzes, Barry Posner

For years, we've operated under the myth that leaders ought to be cool, aloof, and analytical; they ought to separate emotion from work. We're told that real leaders don't need love, affection, and friendship. "It's not a popularity contest" is a phrase we've all heard often: "I don't care if people like me. I just want them to respect me."


Tony Codianni, director of the Training and Dealer Development Group for Toshiba America Information Systems, told us that "Encouraging the Heart is the most important leadership practice, because it's the most personal." Tony believes leadership is all about people, and if you're going to lead people you have to care about them.

The Center for Creative Leadership in Colorado Springs has studied the process of executive selection, and their results support Tony's observation.

Of the following three factors from the FIRO-B*—an assessment developed by Will
Schutz to measure interpersonal relationships—which one do you think distinguished the highest-performing from the lowest-performing managers, according to their research?

The three factors:
  • Inclusion
  • Control
  • Affection
  • The Center for Creative Leadership found that the single factor that differentiated the top from the bottom was higher scores on affection. Contrary to the myth of the cold-hearted boss who cares little about people's feelings, the highest-performing managers show more warmth and fondness toward others than do the bottom 25 percent. They get closer to people, and they're significantly more open in sharing thoughts and feelings than their lower-performing counterparts.

    In other words, the best leaders want to be liked, and they want openness from other people. Not caring how others feel and think about what we do and say is an attitude for losers (and very self-centered and aloof or out-of-touch individuals)—an attitude that can only lead to less and less effectiveness. The evidence tells us that expressing affection is important to success, and we all need it. In fact, too many people have a secret they're afraid to reveal because it might make them look soft or wimpy. We all really do want to be loved.

    When we interviewed former chief executive officer and current venture capitalist Irwin Federman, his remarks foreshadowed what we now know from the data. He spoke an important truth about the chemistry that exists between great leaders and those who follow them. He spoke of love as a necessary ingredient, one that is rarely appreciated, in part because we underrate the role of our feelings:

    You don't love someone because of who they are; you love them because of the way they make you feel. This axiom applies equally in a company setting. It may seem inappropriate to use words such as love and affection in relation to business. Conventional wisdom has it that management is not a popularity contest. . . . I contend, however, that all things being equal, we will work harder and more effectively for people we like. And we will like them in direct proportion to how they make us feel.

    When we wrote our book, Encouraging the Heart, we asked people to identify the most important non-financial reward they could receive at work. What response do you think they gave?

    You might be surprised to learn that the most common answer was, "A simple thank-you."

    Author Gerald H. Graham reports that personal congratulations rank at the top of the most powerful non-financial motivators identified by employees. Harvard Business School Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter reports that in the most innovative companies there is a significantly higher volume of thank-yous than in companies of low innovation.

    *The FIRO-B measures two dimensions of three factors: the extent to which a person both expresses and wants (1) inclusion, (2) control, and (3) affection. See W. Schutz, The Human Element: Productivity, Self-Esteem, and the Bottom Line. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1994.

    It's Not Easy to Encourage the Heart
    Supporting others, particularly in times of great change, can be physically and emotionally draining. We have learned that Encourage the Heart is one of the most difficult of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®. We've found that it's much easier for leaders to Challenge the Process, for example, than it is for them to Encourage the Heart.

    But the seven essentials of Encouraging the Heart are core leadership skills. They are not just about showing people they can win for the sake of making them feel good. When striving to raise quality, recover from disaster, start up a new service, or make dramatic change of any kind, leaders must make sure that people experience in their hearts that what they do matters.

    Adapted from the Encouraging the Heart Workbook, James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, Pfeiffer, November 2010


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