Leadership Failures Part Three: Failing to Affirm

Leadership Failures Part 3: Failing To Affirm  

Today features part three in our four-part series about leadership failures. Our topic? Failing to affirm. 

Part 3: I Fail To Affirm 

This winter, our family made Sunday night “movie night.” But instead of watching a new movie every week, we have been watching “The Chosen.” The Chosen is a mini-series that depicts Jesus through the eyes of those that met him. Not only is the series extremely well done, but it also leaves you with the desire to drop everything and follow this Jesus. 

As I’ve watched the series, I have become convicted by the example of Jesus’ affirmation of those who followed him. His gentleness to Mary Magdalene, his acceptance of Matthew (the series does a good job of showing how vilified tax collectors were, and Matthew was a tax collector!), and too many other examples to share here. In all cases, Jesus affirmed the person whether they were outcast by society, cursing God for their plight, or just strong-willed like Simon Peter. I simply cannot get enough of this Jesus and want to be compassionate like him. 

The Last 5% of Affirmation

This series has made me look anew at my leadership, and I have to be honest, the realization I’ve come to is that I don’t affirm those I lead enough. There are no excuses for this, and this isn’t intended to be one. I am task-oriented with goals to conquer, and while I regularly spend time with those I lead, I fail to say the “last five percent” of affirmation.  

The last five percent are oftentimes words that the heart feels, but the mind says, “You can’t say that because it’s awkward.” Allow me to give a few examples — and ask yourself, when was the last time you said something like this to someone you lead?

  • You mean a lot to me. 
  • I appreciate having you on the team. 
  • Your presence on the team makes my work life better, and everyone in my life appreciates it. 
  • I am proud of the work you are doing. I see it. You are crushing it. 
  • There is not a day that goes by that I am not thankful to have you on our team. 

When was the last time you said any of the above? Maybe the words I used aren’t the words or phrases you would use. That’s fine — create your own. Make them your own. Unveil the real you, the “last five percent” you.  

Work is Human

I am not advocating that you do anything against your HR policy. Nor am I suggesting you do something that comes off as not genuine. I am simply suggesting that work is human, and humans crave affirmation. This has always been true, and I believe it is even more true now in our increasingly divisive society. 

Leadership is about doing the hard things because that is what makes you someone others want to follow. Affirming other human beings is one of those hard things. It shouldn’t be hard, but somehow it is. As awkward as it feels, push past your hesitation and open your mouth up. Tell people how much they mean to you. 

Say it from your heart. 

Share yourself fully in support of others. 

Doing this won’t guarantee business success, but it will make you the kind of person others want to follow.