Encouraging the Heart – How to Build Up and Speak Life!

Encouragement - Become who you are

Our hearts broken, burdened, or bored. Our hearts need encouragement. This post explores what it means to encourage the heart and begins a conversation about how to live that out as leaders, colleagues, and friends.  

Build Up and Speak Life

I believe that every person on God’s green Earth has innate value and was created with purpose and has vibrant potential to be successful in that purpose. However, we have the tendency to allow relationships and circumstances to derail our life journey and burden us away from the excellence we can achieve. We need people in our lives who can speak life into us and encourage our hearts to persevere and enjoy life.  

A couple leadership gurus named James Kouzes and Barry Posner wrote a great book called “Encourage the Heart” which provides great insights into how we can build up and speak life into those around us – especially those under our leadership.  

The word encouragement has its root in the Latin word cor, which literally means “heart.” To encourage – to provide with or give courage – literally means to give others heart.

Kouzes & Posner - Encouraging the Heart (pg. xv) Tweet

The Impact of Encouragement

Every person in your life has a heart that needs encouragement. As a leader, you have the opportunity to serve others by giving or your heart “so that others may fully develop and experience their own” (Intro – xvi). People need to be affirmed for who they are the potential that is within them. They need to hear that their unique contribution is noticed, appreciated, and valued. Providing that does not require much of you, but can be life changing for the individual receiving the encouragement.   

Studies featured in the book provide evidence of the results of genuine, regular recognition and encouragement. People perform better and live happier lives when they regularly affirmed for their life and work.  

Use Names and Say Thank You

I have developed a habit that every time I go to a store or event where people wear name tags – I address them by their first name. When we go out to a restaurant, we ask the waiter or waitress for their name and aim to use it when they take our orders and refill our drinks. Often people are surprised when I use their names but I can usually recognize that they appreciate it. Try it out yourself and demonstrate to people that you recognize them as individuals and that they matter.  

I also try to say “thank you” whenever others serve me. It may be the waitress’s job to refill my water, but I can still demonstrate appreciation for her service. It isn’t difficult to thank your co-worker for the tasks they completed, or thank your spouse for grocery shopping or doing the laundry, or thank your boss for the opportunity to work for them. It isn’t difficult – but it is very impactful.  

The secret is this: we all really do want to be loved.

Kouzes & Posner - Encouraging the Heart (pg. 11) Tweet

Featured Photo

Image has a Creative Commons license. It was posted on Flickr by user “craftivist collective” and can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/42839495@N07/6237667320

Reference

Kouzes, James and Barry Posner. Encouraging the Heart – A Leader’s Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others. The Leadership Challenge, 2003. 

Link to Purchase

Further Encouragement!

Read this post for more encouragement – Strength through Encouragement

Strong Leaders Thrive with Intuition as they Read People and Situations

Law of Intuition www.thestrongwork.com

Leaders evaluate everything with a leadership bias.

John Maxwell - 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Tweet

Some people have a gift, a natural ability, to read people and situations and make insightful decisions based on a gut feeling. They can be convinced of the right action, and often be right, before they have the facts to back up their conviction. This is what John Maxwell calls “The Law of Intuition.”

Dictionary.com defines Intuition as: “direct perception of truth, fact, etc., independent of any reasoning process; immediate apprehension.” It is this special “perception” that drives natural leaders to make quick decisions while others lag-behind and perceive the leader as being brash & irresponsible, or as a brilliant risk-taker, or perhaps as a possessed fortune teller!

The Discernment of a Counselor

My wife is a Licensed Professional Counselor and has been seeing clients for almost ten years now. She has a special gift in her ability to discern the challenges or emotions people are experiencing. People naturally open up to her, even on their first conversation and even if they don’t know that she is a counselor. This intuition gives her the ability to ask the right questions that help the other person talk through their challenges to reach a conclusion or a new insight.

Just recently, she met a lady at the gym and within 30 minutes they had a very intentional conversation which ended with new insights, emboldened resolve, and even a moment of prayer. This lady later told my wife that their conversation gave her the courage to make a major life decision and that she was full of hope for the future. My wife’s natural intuition to read people provided an opportunity to touch a life in a significant way.

Seeing Through a Leadership Lens

Maxwell says that “good leaders see everything with a leadership bias, and as a result, they instinctively, almost automatically, know what to do when it comes to leading.” They don’t need all the facts and charts and speeches. They read people and situations and know “in their gut” what needs to happen to accomplish the goal or overcome the challenge.

Leaders, by intuition, see the end – the finish line, the end-zone – so they are able to encourage their “troops” and strive for excellence as they march toward that goal. Through intuition, leaders can also bring the best out of people and drive them to accomplish more than they thought possible. Strong, cohesive teams develop around strong leaders as each person is challenged to be their best to accomplish the common goal – which is revealed through the vision and intuition of the leader.

Leaders are Readers…

  • Of their situation – they evaluate on the fly, ask probing questions, and “smell” things quickly
  • Of trends – they take a broad view, perhaps years ahead, and sense trouble or opportunity
  • Of their resources – when faced with challenges they think, “Who is the best person to take this on? What resources do we possess that will help us? How can I encourage my team to success?
  • Of people – they sense what’s happening among people and know their hopes, fears, and concerns.
  • Of Themselves – they know their strengths and limitations and their current state of mind.

What if Intuition Doesn’t Come Naturally?

Maxwell explains that intuition does come naturally to some, but that the majority of people have the potential to develop it over time. With diligence and patience, the leadership ability of intuition can be nurtured so that we understand leadership and it becomes automatic. Personally, I fall into this category. I am on a journey to develop my leadership abilities. I am finding that it requires me to be teachable and disciplined to continue striving forward. Join me on that journey and let’s strive forward together!

Above all, you must care about the people you are leading and have a desire to accomplish the goal. You have to treat people as humans and listen to them in order to read and lead them.

Application Questions:

  1. Are you able to read a situation with a “gut feeling” of intuition?
  2. Do you trust that intuition? Does your initial instinct often come out to be true?
  3. What are you doing to develop your leadership ability so that this law will develop?

Reference:

Maxwell, John C., The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, (HarperCollins Leadership; Revised & Updated edition, 2007).

To purchase the book – Click Here.

Suggested Reading:

About the Picture

I took this picture of my wife while we were on vacation in New York City in 2009. This captured her with an upward, forward thinking vision.

The Process of Leadership Development (Law 3)

Marathon training like the Leadership Process

Leadership develops daily, not in a day.

Law 3 of John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is The Law of Process. Learn with me as I describe the law and reflect on its application with developing leaders.

Introducing The Law of Process

This law reinforces the primary purpose of the Leaders Journey and is a process I’ve been (mostly) involved in since college – but has really picked up over the last couple years as I have seen value in personal growth. The general lesson is that we need to focus on the long-term process of developing ourselves through reading and being trained so that we will develop into leaders. Whether it is “general leadership” or technical/specific leadership – it takes intentional, disciplined effort through a process to gain a level of ability to provide leadership. 

Marathon Training as a Process

I grew up playing soccer – so I ran a good bit – but didn’t begin seriously running until I was challenged to run a 10K (6.2 miles) about seven years ago. Then I ran my first half-marathon and have run four more and several 15Ks and shorter runs.

 

I have learned that you cannot prepare to run a long distance in one day. It takes deliberate training and a strict diet over the course of a couple months to seriously prepare for a half-marathon – and much longer for a full marathon. Your body cannot handle the strain without intentionally building up toward the final distance of the race.

Daniel David Running a 15K

I realized this in my latest 15K this past March (right before COVID hit). My training was interrupted by a one week cold (I think) that weakened me and put me off my schedule and reduced my pace. I felt pretty good on race day so I decided to run with a group above my pace so I would be challenged. I hung with them until mile 6… then I got slower and slower and ended up with a slower time than the prior year. 

 

In much the same way, we have to engage in the long process of leadership development to gain the ability to be a strong leader. Start now with big goals so they can be realized in the future.

What Distinguishes a Leader?

John Maxwell shares the results of a leadership study – “It is the capacity to develop and improve their skills that distinguishes leaders from their followers.”

Successful leaders are learners. And the learning process is ongoing, a result of self-discipline and perseverance. The goal each day must be to get a little better, to build on the previous day’s progress ... If I want to improve, then I’ll engage in a process and stick with it.

John Maxwell - 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Tweet

Phases of Leadership Growth

  1. I don’t know what I don’t know.  Many people fall into this category, thinking (or not thinking) that learning and developing as a leader is not important or that it is only for those people at the top. They never develop because they don’t know or don’t try and remain ignorant.
  2. I know that I need to know. Then, many people recognize that they need to know something to improve or grow as a leader. They at least recognize that there is a missing piece. 
  3. I know what I don’t know. Recognize what you need to know and develop a plan to get there – even if it takes years and financial investment.
  4. I know and grow, and it starts to show. Put your personal growth & leadership development plan into action over the long haul and leadership will come naturally and your influence will grow.
  5. I simply go because of what I know. This is when you reach the phase you worked toward in phase 4. “That’s when the payoff is incredible. But the only way to get there is to obey the Law of Process and pay the price.”

He closes the chapter with a story about President Theodore Roosevelt. He was a thin, sickly kid but through the challenge and example of his father and others he became strong, knowledgeable, and a great leader due to a determined effort as a life-long learner to improve and develop his leadership ability.

Application

  1. What is your personal plan for growth? What areas are you intentionally developing?
  2. Where do you see yourself in the five phases of leadership growth?

Book Reference:

Maxwell, John C., The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, (HarperCollins Leadership; Revised & Updated edition, 2007).

Photo Credit: Link to the original photo and the license.

Recommended Reading:

Leadership is Influence :: Law 2 of John Maxwell’s 21 Laws

Leadership is Influence

Every person has a measure of influence over others. Our leadership ability is measured by how much (and what kind) of influence we have on those whom we lead. 

I found this Law to be impactful because he gets right to the heart of what leadership really is – and isn’t. It challenges me to think about areas where I am leading (or tried to lead) and had influence over the group (and when I clearly didn’t). A position doesn’t provide a measure of leadership ability – your influence does.

The Law of Influence

The True Measure of Leadership Is Influence – Nothing More, Nothing Less

John Maxwell - The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Tweet

He closes the chapter with these sentences, which provides a good summary of this Law. “I love the leadership proverb that says, “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk.” If you can’t influence people, then they will not follow you. And if people won’t follow, you are not a leader.”

Mother Theresa as a Leader with Influence

John opens with a depiction of how Mother Theresa was such a great leader. She was small in stature but had incredible influence because she had faith, vision, and passion – and then worked tirelessly to further her cause. He explains how, after founding an organization and leading a team of over 4,000, she was invited to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast in D.C. in 1994. Her speech was pointed and stepped on many toes but, instead of boos, she received respect and applause. John commented – “When a real leader speaks, people listen.”

The Five Myths About Leadership

Leadership cannot be awarded, appointed, or assigned.

  1. The Management Myth – “leadership is about influencing people to follow, while management focuses on maintaining systems and processes.” “Managers can maintain direction, but often can’t change it.”
  2. The Entrepreneur Myth – They are not necessarily leaders. They go after opportunities.
  3. The Knowledge Myth – Sir Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power.” But… knowledge alone does not produce a leader. A scientist in a lab might be brilliant – but they aren’t leading anyone anywhere.
  4. The Pioneer Myth – “To be a leader, a person has to not only be out front, but also have people intentionally coming behind him, following his lead, and acting on his vison.”
  5. The Position Myth – A title or office doesn’t mean that people will follow you (at least not willingly).

Leaders Who Are Respected

To find a leader in an organization, look for who is respected and to whom people listen when he or she speaks. There are some helpful characteristics or factors that help a person gain influence and become a leader.

  • Character Who they are – begins with the inner person – the genuine person (like Billy Graham).
  • Relationships Who they know – building real relationships develops influence
  • Knowledge What they know – doesn’t make you a leader but information is vital to be able to lead.
  • IntuitionWhat they feel – “recognize and influence intangibles such as energy, morale, and momentum.
  • Experience Where they’ve been – gives people more reason to give you a chance.
  • Past SuccessWhat they’ve done – a good track record helps build respect and followers.
  • Ability What they can do - “the bottom line for followers is what a leader is capable of.” On to victory!

Abraham Lincoln as a Leader with Influence

He closes the chapter with a story about how Abraham Lincoln struggled in his early life as a leader without skills and knowledge. He blundered through multiple attempts to lead, only to be met with failure and disappointment. But he was persistent as a leader and his abilities grew so that he was able to influence the nation as the 16th President.

The featured image is a picture I took of a statue of Abraham Lincoln in London. He was so influential, that even the English chose to honor him “across the pond!” 

Application Challenge

Review the above list of leadership factors and rate yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 to see which one you usually rely on the most to persuade people to follow you. Which factors could you further develop to become a leader with greater influence?

Reference: Maxwell, John C., The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, (HarperCollins Leadership; Revised & Updated edition, 2007).

To learn about the first law of leadership – The Law of the Lid.

To watch a video of John Maxwell teaching on the Law of Influence – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrZkVgl6U2c&t

Hamilton :: 5 Leadership and Life Lessons from the Musical

Hamilton Theatre

What are the leadership and life lessons we can learn from Hamilton?

Hamilton has hit our country by storm since its arrival as a film on Disney+. The musical is phenomenal and original on its own, but the timing with current events makes it all the more compelling and relevant. As I reflected on the film, I recognized a number of leadership virtues and life lessons that can be learned.

My hope is that you gain value from my reflection on the musical. I would love to hear all the virtues (and vices) that you would contribute to this list!

Have a Definite Purpose – “Not Throwing Away My Shot”

Hamilton was driven through life with a definite purpose toward big goals. He had invested in his studies and personal development. He chose not to be a victim to circumstances which would lead many to a life of poverty and insignificance. He knew that he had a shot at living a significant life – and was “not throwing away [his] shot!”

He was resolved to do everything he could to secure independence from England and successfully establish the United States as a strong nation. He surrounded himself with men who were equally driven with the same desire and resolve toward their extravagant goals. They were proactive, relentless, optimistic, and ready to jump on opportunities and strive for progress.

Why do you write like you're running out of time? …Ev'ry day you fight, like you're running out of time.

- “Non-Stop” - by Lin-Manuel Miranda Tweet

I have been going through a journey to discover my own “definite purpose” in life so I can proactively strive toward big goals with excellence. A step in that journey is described in this post about developing a life plan.

Leave a Legacy – “Blow Us All Away”

The closing words of the musical are “Who tells your story?” This final song highlights that each of us leaves some form of a legacy and we cannot control how our story will be told and who chooses to tell it. Alexander Hamilton had a drive to protect his reputation and build a lasting legacy.

Hamilton and Burr share a split-stage song (“Dear Theodosia”) where they separately sing for their respective new-born children. Each of them dotes over his child and dreams of how he or she will carry on the legacy of the father. They exclaim that their respective children will “blow us all away.”

If we lay a strong enough foundation - We'll pass it on to you, we'll give the world to you - And you'll blow us all away

- “Dear Theodosia” - by Lin-Manuel Miranda Tweet

Contemplating your own legacy is a vital part of becoming the strong person you are created to be. If we begin our journey with the desired end in mind, then we know which steps to take in order to reach that end. Choose your legacy now so it isn’t left to others to “tell your story.” This is an important part of building your life plan.

Have Patience – “Smile More, Talk Less”

Aaron Burr provides a constant word of caution to Hamilton, which he mostly ignored and disrespected, that would have provided some wisdom for his overzealous pursuits. Alexander would have made less enemies and created more unity if he had heeded Burr’s advice to be patient and friendly.

All of us could learn to smile more, talk less, and begin to truly hear people as we recognize and validate their worth and potential. This does not mean that we should be idle and passive, especially in urgent times that call for action, but it is usually unwise to brashly march ahead into “battle” without counsel or unified support.

Sometimes we need a paradigm shift in how we perceive and relate with others. Recognizing the worth of others is a valuable virtue in any leadership role.

Invest in Your Inner Circle – “That Would Be Enough”

A repeated theme in the musical is the cry for Hamilton to be content with spending time with his family. His wife Eliza clearly yearned for her husband to be home with her more often, especially during her pregnancy and the birth of their son, Phillip. Alexander was away from home so much during the revolution and the early years of the country that he failed to invest time and love into his family. The evidence of this came in two of his major life failures – his adulterous affair and the death of his son. He did not take seriously his responsibility to be a steward over his wife and children, and he paid dearly for his mistakes.

One of my great passions and life purposes is to be responsible in my role as a husband and father. I will continue to invest in my “inner circle” – my family, friends, and church community. Through my career and academic pursuits, I have found it necessary to often tap the breaks on my desires so that I can be present and strong within my close relationships.

Choose Forgiveness over Revenge – “Forgiveness. Can you imagine?”

There are moments that the words don’t reach - There is a grace too powerful to name - We push away what we can never understand - We push away the unimaginable - They are standing in the garden - Alexander by Eliza’s side - She takes his hand - … Forgiveness. Can you imagine?

- “It’s Quiet Uptown” - by Lin-Manuel Miranda Tweet

The most moving part of the musical for us was when we experienced Alexander and Eliza grieving the death of their son. Hamilton had done so much to hurt his wife, but she chose to forgive him and reconcile their marriage through the journey of grieving together. They accomplish the unimaginable together because of her choice to forgive him. Her genuine forgiveness is evident in the final song as she describes all the work she did to further Alexander’s legacy after his death.

Aaron Burr and Phillip Alexander both chose revenge instead of forgiveness and that choice ruined and ended their lives, respectively.

Choose to Forgive

We have the choice on a regular basis to hold grudges and take revenge on others who have wronged us – OR to extend grace and forgive them. Revenge produces destruction. Forgiveness opens the door to healing and reconciliation. Holding a grudge hurts yourself more than the other person. Choose forgiveness and free yourself of the burden of anger and revenge.

If this is a topic you would like to further explore – please email me at thestrongwork@gmail.com

Your Opportunity to Contribute

I realize that the life of Alexander Hamilton provides many more lessons of virtues and vices. Reflecting on the lives of significant men and women enables us to learn from their success and mistakes. Please provide your own examples of lessons from the musical through the comments section below this post. Two ideas to start with are – 1) Have a Character of Loyalty and not Deception and 2) Take Responsibility for your Mistakes.

Reflective Questions:

  • Which of these virtues is most valuable to you?
  • Did you see yourself in one of Hamilton’s vices? Is that a potential area of growth for you?

Links to Images Used: