Is Your Leadership Creating Negativity?

Perhaps the better question would be is your lack of leadership creating negativity? Or is there a characteristic missing from your leadership that causes negativity in your organization? 

 

I like that last question best because you can be an effective leader in some ways but if you’re missing the key ingredients of sincere recognition and consistent feedback then you’re missing the point of leadership. 

 

The point of leadership is people. Authentic Leaders, and Authentic Servant Leaders in particular, focus on helping their people. They help them succeed. They help them discover their purpose and potential and then they help them achieve them. 

 

Those leaders understand the importance of recognition and feedback. They seldom miss an opportunity to provide both. 

 

As a leader I’ve always been consistent in providing feedback but I’ve struggled with giving recognition. I’m not a touchy feely kind of guy. Early in my career I assumed a paycheck was all the recognition someone needed. 

 

As I’ve grown (that’s code for gotten older) I’ve come to realize that recognition is vital for a person’s mental health. It’s vital for a person to know, without a doubt that another human being sees the value that they bring into the world. 

 

We all need to know we matter. Some people need that affirmation more than others but everyone needs it to some degree. As a leader one of your prime responsibilities is providing that affirmation. Your people need to hear it. They need to feel it. They need to see it. 

 

Here is a crucial thing for leaders to understand. Most people, research shows that as much as 85% of the world’s population, suffer from some level of self esteem deficiency. They lack the confidence to know that they matter, that they make a difference, that they would be missed. 

 

They need rather consistent re-enforcement of that fact. 

 

If they don’t get it, if it’s not a periodic part of their emotional diet, then they start to doubt their value. Maybe it’s a nagging thought or little concern at first but over time without recognition it grows. It grows to the point where they become convinced that they are NOT of value. 

 

That doesn’t make them wacky or weak; it makes them human. It happens to all of us at one time or another. 

 

When that “unvalued” feeling persists long enough a person disengages from the leader or organization that doesn’t value them. Some will then leave the organization and the leader behind. They use what confidence they have left to put themselves into a situation where they might be valued. 

 

But many won’t leave, they stay and simply go through the motions with their organization. They become disengaged and offer little in return for their paycheck. They can even seek to pull others down to their level. They are labeled as “negative” employees or described as having a negative attitude. 

 

They may be negative but they were not born that way. They likely didn’t have that attitude the day they started with the organization. That attitude developed over time and it likely started with a feeling that they, and their work, didn’t matter. 

 

That’s how easy it is for a well-meaning but sometimes thoughtless leader to foster an atmosphere of negativity in their organization. 

 

No organization, not a single one, can afford that type of atmosphere today. As a leader you must be intentional with your feedback and recognition. I literally recommend to leaders that they put a reminder in their phones to recognize someone each day. 


“Busy” is no excuse for letting your people wonder if they matter. Tell them often because there are few, if any, activities you have to do that could be more important than that.

Give Sincere Compliments

Has someone ever given you a compliment and you weren’t sure of their motives? Perhaps it was even subconsciously. Maybe you downright wondered if they wanted something in return.

     

It’s nice to give compliments. It’s better to give unquestionably sincere compliments. The kind that leaves no doubt that you mean what you said and that you expect nothing in return. Sometimes we throw out complements in a sort of mindless fashion. We mean what we say but we don’t put enough thought into it to make certain the person on the receiving end knows how sincere we are.

     

An unquestionably sincere compliment actually has two parts. The compliment and the evidence to back it up. Think of it this way; you give someone a compliment and then notice a questioning look on their face. The look indicates that they may be wondering why you said that.

     

So don’t let them wonder.

     

Immediately after giving the compliment add “and the reason I say that is.” The “reason” is the evidence. It adds depth to the compliment and supports it’s sincerity. It leaves no doubt as to your motive for giving it. The compliment becomes more valuable.

     

This takes a bit of work, it requires some thought before you toss out the next “nice job” compliment. It’s worth it however when you see the difference in how people respond to what you’ve said. Give it a try and see for yourself.

     

I can’t end an article about giving compliments without at least mentioning the proper way to receive one. Never give a compliment back. By that I mean when someone says “nice shirt,” don’t respond by saying “this old thing.” When you say that you’ve refused the compliment and may have offended the person who gave you the compliment.

     

The only proper way of responding to a compliment is to say “thank you.” Nothing more is needed. Just say thanks!

The No Recognition Zone

If you’re in a leadership position then you must know this absolute fact: people need and respond to recognition. If you’re actually going to lead however you must do more than know it, you must actively practice the skill of recognizing those you lead. 

 

People have needed recognition since…well since Adam complimented Eve on her choice of apples….okay, so that didn’t work out so well but you get my point.

 

It’s amazing to me that even though they know this fact so many people in leadership positions fail to recognize their people for their efforts. I guess they just get busy or they think their people already know that they are important to the organization. (I’ve used those two poor excuses myself)

 

But the most effective leaders are never too busy…or lazy, to recognize their people. They are incredibly intentional and consistent with recognition and compliments for their team. They make it a point to look for reasons to compliment; they make it a habit to recognize someone on an almost daily basis. 

 

Authentic Servant Leaders create a culture of recognition within their organizations. They understand that recognition helps keep their people engaged and motivated. 

 

As a leader you simply cannot afford to fail in this area. You must set aside time in your day just for this purpose. I often ask leaders of organizations what their greatest asset is within their organization. They almost always say it’s their people. 

 

Then, in very nearly the next breath, they tell me that they don’t have the time to consistently recognize their people. When I point out that spending time on less important things while pretty much ignoring their greatest asset is not a great recipe for success they realize the mistake they have been making.

 

Don’t make that all too common mistake, plan some recognition time into your day. Encourage others on your team to recognize their fellow team members, make your organization one where even the little successes are celebrated. If the recognition is done with sincerity it never gets old. 

 

If your organization is known as a no recognition zone, well that kind of environment gets old pretty darn quick. 

 

So right now, reach out to someone in person, through a phone call or even an email and let them know they matter, let them know you recognize and appreciate them and their efforts. 


It truly takes so little time when compared to the value it will add to their day. So go ahead …do it now!