Over my career, I have been blessed and I have been cursed. I have been blessed when managed, coached and trained in business, sports and life by some of the world’s best leaders. However at times I have also been cursed by being managed, trained and coached by some of the world’s worst leaders.
The best leaders brought out the best in me and helped me to excel. The worst strangled my creativity and questioned my abilities, which robbed me of confidence and courage.
What was it that those amazing leaders had that made me develop so much, excel in my skills and abilities and ultimately succeed? The secret is an encouraging spirit.
What did the bad leaders who cursed me have? They had a critical spirit.
I have come to conclude that there are two kinds of leaders in this world – The Encouraging Leader and the Critical Leader.
I could tell you many stories of the power of encouragement in my life but I would like to tell you about two short encounters that changed my life in different ways. The first encounter was when I was 13 years old at school. One of my teachers was a young, first year teacher named Mr. Buckley. He became our mathematics teacher in grade nine. He was tall with long dark wavy hair, wore black-rimmed glasses and had a nice toothy smile.
There was something about the way that he spoke to the pupils that made us want to learn and develop. When he spoke to me and coached me I felt that he could see the good and the potential in me. I went from having to learn mathematics to wanting to excel at mathematics. I did my homework with passion. I would arrive at his class early so I could sit at the front of the class and the classes seemed to go in a flash. His classes were the highlight of my school life.
In six short months Mr. Buckley gave me a passion for mathematics that has never left me. I went from being an average student to achieving top marks. Unfortunately, half way through that year the school decided to rearrange classes. They placed the highest achieving mathematics students under another teacher, Mr. Smith (not real name), which is where I saw the power of a critical leader. Mr. Smith had a critical spirit. His way of managing was to criticise, intimidate and scream at the students. Under his tutelage, my marks dropped but my passion for mathematics did not and I went on to join a financial services organisation.
From that day on I chose to be an Encouraging Leader rather than a Critical Leader. Which kind of leader are you? Below are some characteristics of both. See if you can deduce from these which one you are.
|THE ENCOURAGING LEADER||THE CRITICAL LEADER|
|What they see:They see the good in others. From the moment they meet you, they see the best in you. They see you as an asset to their team. They see your strengths, your abilities and your potential. Moreover, if that old saying is true ‘What you concentrate on grows,’ and I believe it is, then you begin to grow in confidence and ability and start believing in yourself. Your creativity and innovation flourishes under their encouragement.||What they see:They see the wrong in others. They look at you and immediately see your faults, weaknesses and problems. You intuitively feel this lack of confidence and consequently you begin to doubt yourself. Mistakes inevitable come and when they do, the Critical Leader is quick to point them out to you. Over time self-doubt creeps in, which begins a downhill cycle of you lacking confidence and courage. Eventually, all creativity and innovation is lost.|
|Connecting with them:They are people you like to be with. They are happy, optimistic and positive people. You feel your best when you are with them. They attract positive, happy people into their teams.||Connecting with them:They are difficult to connect to. They come across as cold, unemotional and expressionless. When they laugh it seems fake. The people they attract are like them – critical and negative. Like birds of a feather they all flock together.|
|What they say:They have the ability to say things that lift you up, give you hope and bring the best out of you. They are not afraid to show you where you went wrong, and they do this in a way that builds you up and helps you to see the benefit of change. They are tactful even whey they have some bad news.||What they say:Their favourite tool is sarcasm. They put you down, point out your faults and speak in jest about your weaknesses. They think this will help you improve however the opposite happens. Even when they do have some good news, it comes across like a slap in the face.|
|What they produce:They bring encouragement out of those they manage and they produce encouraging leaders. The spirit they have rubs off on you and you find yourself automatically seeing the good in others and encouraging others: your company, co-workers, family and community.||What they produce:They bring criticism out of you and their teams end up divisive and ultimately they turn again the critical leader. Their spirit of criticism rubs off onto you, if you are not a critical person. The more you mix with them, the more you become critical of others, your company, family, co-workers and community.|
The second encounter came many years later when I was married with 5 children. I arrived at my golf club one Saturday to play in the Monthly Medal. This was a monthly golf event at my local club that every member wanted desperately to win. In previous attempts, my golf game had crumbled under the pressure at such events.
At the first tee, an older white haired man came and joined us to make up a group of four. His face looked vaguely familiar and as we spoke I realised that this was my old mathematics teacher from grade nine, Mr. Buckley. He had left my school after that first year and been transferred to another school. His hair was shorter now and had turned white. He was no longer wearing glasses and his face had aged, but one thing he never lost – that encouraging spirit.
When I teed off he said, “Wow, Chris that was a great shot!” When I chipped to the green he said, “I wish I could chip as good as you!” When I putted he said, “You have such a great putting style.” The encouragement just flowed out of him and continued throughout the game of golf.
As we played that event his words of encouragement caused me to relax and believe in my game, and consequently I played some incredible golf. I chipped in twice, sunk amazing putts from all over the greens and overall played the best golf of my life.
As I stood on the 13th tee that day, I calculated my score and realised that I was 3 under par. I had never been three under par in my life. The excitement was hard to control. I started to get tense and the fear of failure and a few bad shots crept into my game, however Mr. Buckley kept encouraging me and I went on to play the best game of my life and to win the Monthly Medal.
The secret of an amazing leader is ‘encouragement’. The word means ‘to impart or give courage.’ In grade nine, Mr. Buckley’s constant words and positive attitude gave me the courage to believe that I could be great at mathematics. The result – I did excel at mathematics and am still good at it today. Years later, playing golf with Mr. Buckley I saw again how encouragement gave me the courage to play beyond my own belief, play amazing shots and win. That belief didn’t stop that day, it stayed with me and I went on that year to reduce my handicap from 15 to 9 and became the ‘Player of the Year’ at my club.
What is the one secret to become an amazing leader? It is to consistently give encouragement. It will always bring the best out in others. I have used it on children, teenagers and adults. It is the secret to being an amazing leader.
Try it with your team, family and community this week, your words and attitude can be the catalyst to help them believe, succeed and excel.