From the President

Educational Leadership Essentials: Encouragement

Creating a culture of encouragement is vital to any organization.  A culture of encouragement intentionally adds value to people while also expecting excellence in all things. I have discovered over the years that there is no such thing as accidental achievement. Everything worth having, or that is accomplished, is costly and requires great effort.  As Christian leaders, we must model hard work and having a great attitude, serving with joy, while creating standards of excellence that are achievable. When these goals are reached we must celebrate and dream bigger dreams. Great leaders inspire others to accomplish great things, create opportunities for victories, and celebrate accomplishments. Leaders passionately believe they can make a difference and envision a future that the organization can attain.  Through knowledge, passion, and gentle persuasion, leaders enlist others to believe in their dream by breathing life into the vision and helping people to see exciting possibilities for the future.

McChesney, Covey, and Huling, in their book, The 4 principles of execution: Achieving your wildly important goals, discuss the leader’s role of challenging the status quo by encouraging others to focus on the wildly important, act on lead measures, keep a compelling scorecard, and create a cadence of accountability. Sometimes goals are not reached, but a highly effective organization is willing to take risks.  Even when goals are not met, there is a learning opportunity. Advancing organizations is hard work and can take a toll on morale, especially in organizations that have challenges. Therefore, as leaders, we must become the chief encouragement officer.

Leaders must also foster a collaborative and team spirit by involving others in the process and creating an atmosphere where everyone in the organization believes they are a part of the success. One of the most powerful experiences of life is being a part of a successful team.  I was a defensive tackle on the 1989 Duke University Football team which tied for the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship with the University of Virginia. Part of the excitement and accomplishment of this was the experience of working together with a team under the leadership of a relatively new coach, Steve Spurrier. It was an audacious goal, but one of the preseason goals of the team was to win the ACC Championship.  Our coach believed in us and helped us reach our goal. Everyone on the team sensed a special part of accomplishing something greater than ourselves.

Accomplishing extraordinary things in any organization requires hard work. To avoid burnout and discouragement, a leader must keep hope and determination alive by continually encouraging employees while recognizing the achievement of individuals within the organization and celebrating them. As a leader, the two most important qualities I admire are hard work and a great attitude. People who work hard and have a great attitude by and large are the most successful people in an organization. One of my personal mottos is, “Life is too short to be unhappy!” Therefore, as leaders, we must encourage everyone in the organization to find their place of most effective service where they can use their God-given gifts and talents to accomplish a task which provides fulfillment and satisfaction for the glory of God. We receive great joy and encouragement when serving in a community of faith that is built upon trust, service, and integrity.