A Leader’s Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others


James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1999, 199 pp. 


Kouzes and Posner have researched what makes good leadership for more than 20 years.  They are the authors of best selling books The Leadership Challenge and Credibility.  In this insightful, easy-to-read volume, they have captured a great secret that is almost biblical. 


There are five practices of exemplary leadership: 

·        Challenge the process

·        Inspire a shared vision

·        Enable others to act

·        Model the way

·        Encourage the heart” (Introduction)


This book is about principles and practices that support the need to be appreciated.  Encouragement increases the chance that people will perform better because people like to be recognized for doing their best.  (Introduction)


“Leadership is everyone’s business.  Leadership is not about a position or a place.  It’s an attitude and a sense of responsibility for making a different.” (Introduction)


“Encouraging the Heart is ultimately about keeping hope alive.  Leaders keep hope alive when they set high standards and genuinely express optimism about an individual’s capacity to achieve them.  They keep hope alive when they give feedback and publicly recognize a job well done.”  ‘Most important, leaders keep hope alive when they set an example.  There really is nothing more encouraging than to see our leaders practice what they preach.”  (Introduction)


“Expressing genuine appreciation for the efforts and successes of others means we have to show our emotions.”  “We have to make ourselves vulnerable to others.” (6)


“Leadership is all about people, and if you’re going to lead people you have to care about them.” (8)


“The highest-performing managers show more warmth and fondness toward others than do the bottom 25 percent.  They get closer to people, and they’re significantly more open in sharing thoughts and feelings than their lower-performing counterparts.” (9)


“We all want more affection than we give.”  “Everybody is waiting for someone else to show them affection.”  “Expressing affection is important to success, and we have high needs for it.”  “The secret is this: we all really do want to be loved.” (10-11)


“Remember to say think you!” (13)


Seven essentials to encouraging the heart: (18) [The remainder of the book is about these seven topics.]

·        “Set clear standards

·        Expect the best

·        Pay attention

·        Personalize recognition

·        Tell the story

·        Celebrate together

·        Set the example”


Recognitions remind us of what we value.  Link the reward with the standards.  (19)


Believe that people can achieve high standards.  (21)


Pay attention and understand the significance of their actions.  (22) 


Tie the reward to something specific that they have accomplished.  (23)


A self-evaluation tool on pp. 36-37 lists 21 behavioral statements to consider.  If you rate yourself low on one, simply begin looking for opportunities to practice that behavior.  (41)


Set Clear Standards.

“A unified voice on values results from discovery and dialogue.  Leaders must engage individuals in a discussion of what the values mean and how their personal beliefs and behaviors are influenced by what the organization stands for.l  Leaders must also be prepared to discuss values and expectations in recruiting, selecting, and orienting new members.”  (52) 


“Values set the stage for action.  Goals release the energy.” (52)  “What’s really important to being our best is concentration and focus on something that is meaningful to us.” (53)


“Goals are insufficient unless we get some information along the way about how we’re doing.” (55)  “Encouragement…is a form of feedback.  It’s positive information that tells us that we’re making progress….”  (58)  “Because it’s more personal positive, encouragement is more likely to accomplish something that other forms of feedback cannot.”  “There’s a deep human yearning to make a different.”  “Great leaders, like great companies, create meaning, not just money.”  “The best leaders are able to bring out and make use of this human longing for meaning and fulfillment.”  (59)


Expect the Best

“People tend to live up, or down, to our expectations of them.”  “Managers with positive expectations set a climate that makes people feel more at ease.  They offer positive reinforcement, give others information, give others opportunity for input and resources to do their jobs, and are likely to lend them assistance and give them better assignments.” (62)


Also “the expectations of constituents can influence the behavior of their leaders.” (79)


Pay Attention

“The vast majority of people are willing to talk about themselves, especially when they’re talking about the best things they’ve done.  But you won’t learn about it unless you’re curious, unless you look for it, unless you pay attention.  Your curiosity shows you care.” (74)


“The best leaders put others at the center of the universe.”  (78) 


There is a shift in managerial values since 1980 from individual to cooperative values, from self to others, and toward home and family interests. (78)


“Central to putting others first is the capacity to walk in their shoes.  Learning to understand and see things from another’s perspective is absolutely crucial to building trusting relations and to career success.” (79)


“People are more willing to follow someone they like and trust.  To become fully trusted, we must be open—to others, but also with others.” (85)  “Disclosing information about yourself is one way to be open.  Asking for constructive feedback is another—not merely giving feedback to others, but asking for it yourself.” (86)


Personal Recognition

“What it comes down to is thoughtfulness: how much effort you put into thinking about the other person and what makes the recognition special for that person.” (95)


Tell the Story

Storytelling is a powerful means of persuasion.  Numbers are abstractions but story is reality.  There is more truth in four panels of Dilbert than in what many people get from their own company!   People believe stories more than numbers. (100-1)


“Stories are essential means of conveying that we are making progress….  Stories put a human face on success.” (105)


Tell the story when you recognize someone for doing something well.  (106)


Celebrate Together

“All individual recognitions in some way can be made group celebrations.”  “The critical ingredient is togetherness.” (114) 


“Celebrations…offer opportunities to reinforce organization values.”  “They broadcast for all to see and hear the principles that are important enough that time and money should be spent to recognize them.” (123)


Set the Example

“Wherever you find a strong culture built around strong values…, you also find endless examples of leaders who personally live the values.  Yes, it may emanate from the top, but a culture is sustained over time because everyone becomes a leader; everyone sets the example.”  “We tend to mirror those around us.” (130)


“More than anything, people want leaders who are credible.  Credibility is the foundation of leadership.  Period.  Above all, people want to believe in their leaders.”  “The first law of leadership: if you don’t believe in the messenger, you won’t believe the message.”  (131)


Loyalty, commitment, energy, and productivity depend upon credibility.  (132)


“When it comes to deciding whether a leader is believable, people first listen to the words and then watch the actions.”  “Do what you say you will do.” (133)


“Directly and visibly showing others that you’re there to cheer them along sends a positive signal.  You’re more likely to see others do it if you do it.  It’s that simple.” (135)


Finding Your Voice

You can only lead out of your own experience.  But it’s not so much what we do as what we are that counts.  People respond to what we are.  People don’t follow your technique: they follow you.  (145-46)


“The truth that must be confronted is this: How much do you really care about the people you lead?”  “When you’re in love with the people you lead, the products and services you offer, and the customers and clients you serve, you just pour your heart into it.”  (149-50)


See also:

Credibility - How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It, James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1993.