Reminders for the Day for Every Leader – from Kouzes & Posner, Encouraging the Heart

All of these quotes come from the terrific book, Encouraging the Heart: A Leaders Guide to Rewarding and Encouraging Others
(The Jossey-Bass Business and Management Series)
by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Pozner (2003).  It is the best book I have ever read on how to help people do their best.  This is the task of actual leadership.  Here are the quotes:

This story is a constant reminder to us of the power of a very simple principle of human performance:  people like to be recognized for doing their best.

Encouragement increases the chance that people will actually achieve higher levels of performance.

Encouraging the Heart is ultimately about keeping hope alive.  Leaders keep hope alive when they set high standards and genuinely express optimism about an individual’s capacity to achieve them.  They keep hope alive when they give feedback and publicly recognize a job well done.  They keep hope alive when they give their constituents the internal support that all human beings need to feel that they and their work are important and have meaning.  They keep hope alive when they train and coach people to exceed their current capacities.  Most important, leaders keep hope alive when they set an example.  There really is nothing more encouraging than to see our leaders practice what they preach.

Really believe in your heart of hearts that your fundamental purpose, the reason for being, is to enlarge the lives of others.  Your life will be enlarged also.  And all of the other things we have been taught to concentrate on will take care of themselves. (Pete Thigpen, Executive Reserves)

Ask yourself this question:  Do I need encouragement to perform at my best?

We don’t do our best in isolation.  We don’t get extraordinary things done by working alone with no support, encouragement, expressions of confidence, or help from others.  That’s not how we make the best decisions, get the best grades, run faster, achieve the highest levels of sales, invent breakthrough products, or live longer.

The best leaders…  over and over again, express their belief in the innate goodness of human beings.

When leaders expect people to achieve, they do.  When they label people underachievers, performance suffers.  Passionately believing in people and expecting the best of them is another prerequisite to encouraging the heart.

Leadership development is self-development…  To know what to change in our lives, we need to understand what we’re doing that is getting the results we want and what we’re doing that is not.

Most people produce more in an environment where they get positive feedback, and productivity diminishes where there is little or no feedback or where they only hear from their leaders if something is wrong.

The set-up-to-fail syndrome “is self-fulfilling and self-reinforcing – it is the quintessential vicious circle…”

High expectations or low expectations both influence other people’s performance.  Only high expectations have a positive impact on actions and on feelings about oneself.  Only high expectations can encourage the heart.

We lead by being human. We do not lead by being corporate, professional, or institutional. (Paul G. Hawken, founder, Smith and Hawken).


You can purchase my synopsis of this book, with handout + audio, at our companion web site,

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