Seven Essentials of Encouraging the Heart

What is leadership and how do we help leaders in their continuing journey of development? There are many ideas, models, approaches and tools. One of the powerful ideas is the Seven Essentials of Encouraging the Heart from Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner which they wrote about in their book The Leadership Challenge and developed further in their follow-up book Encouraging the Heart. They assert that leadership is a relationship, and having a connection with one’s team and each team member is critical to being a successful leader.

The root word “cor” means heart. in Spanish, “corazon” means heart. Encouraging the Heart is about the principles and practices that support our basic human need to be appreciated for who we are and what we do. It’s about how leaders can apply specific principles and concrete practices. Leaders are made and not born, and anyone can become a more effective leader by working on their leadership practices and behaviors. The seven essentials give leaders specific actions and behaviors to apply day-to-day.

The Seven Essentials of Encouraging the Heart:
1. Set Clear Standards
2. Expect the Best
3. Pay Attention
4. Personalize Recognition
5. Tell the Story
6. Celebrate Together
7. Set the Example

In Encouraging the Heart workshops I have facilitated, I’ve realized that many managers and leaders really do not usually show appreciation nor give recognition to what their teams, especially individual staff, have accomplished and contributed to achieving the standards. Most are very task and results oriented and quickly move on to the next task without any acknowledgments given. The authors use the word standards to mean goals, expectations, or objectives as well as values or principles. Standards refer to standards of excellence, and must be aspirational to bring out the best in everyone.

Some reasons given by managers and leaders for not giving credit where credit is due include, “…they’re just doing their job…,” “…we may be seen as playing favorites…,” and ” …they may think we are not sincere…. The fear of being vulnerable and misinterpreted seem to be deep seated. Whatever, the reasons one may have, the workshop enables participants to refelct on their most memorable recognition received and given, do a self assessment of their current practices against the Encourgement Index, and then create an action plan for building up the use of the seven essentials. Participants focus on areas for improvement as well as enhancing their strengths.

At the end of the day, at the heart of effective leadership is genuinely caring for people and consistenly applying tested leadership principles and practices.

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