The Art of Encouragement
as a Leader


By Tom Edwards, Arkansas Hands and Voices

Words have power!  In my previous articles I have been laying out what a leader who is motivated by love looks like.  As a leader, I have encouraged you to invest in your team mates and to practice listening to them, truly hearing what they are saying and not approaching them with your agenda but to hear and hopefully come to a common agenda.  Today I would like to continue to explore what leadership “motivated by love” looks like; I want to focus on a very important element of leadership- the power of our words.

You and I have sung the song “Home on the Range”.  You know that is the place “where never is heard a discouraging word”.  Words have a great deal of power and a leader’s use of their words is very important factor to their success.  With words we can build up and with words we can tear down.

Have you ever taken time to listen to the words that come out of your mouth?  Are you one that builds others up and provides encouragement to those who are trying to meet a difficult challenge, or do you tend to be critical, and judgmental, and do you sometimes tear down others with your words?

You have seen it over and over I bet in your child’s attempts to communicate; that many of the difficulties in communication come down to the words that we use and perhaps even more importantly the way in which you say the things that you say.  I think that it is critical for a leader of volunteers to learn the art of encouragement.  It is a powerful tool in helping to get things done in the life of your work as a leader.  The people whom you are leading and asking things of need to hear sincere, genuine words of encouragement that comes out of your mouth regularly.

Words have a power to create a positive and contagious atmosphere within your chapter and they also can create havoc and confusion and hurt, all of this is as they say is at the preference of “the speaker”.  So let me suggest to you some things to do to look at your words and to think about how you can make a difference in your team.  

Take some time to “think about” some of the recent conversations that you have had with your fellow team mates. 

  • What was the impact of that conversation upon them? Did you give them positive or negative words?  Is there a “natural tendency” in your language or thought process to be positive or critical?  Is your “natural tendency” helping you or hurting your effectiveness with the people that you lead?
  • What was the “message” that you left with that other person when we finished talking?  Did you communicate effectively?  Did you leave them with the impression and message that you intended to leave them with.
  • Ask yourself, “Could I have said this in a better way?”  Especially when we have to have those “difficult” conversations, are there better ways to get my message across without creating defensiveness and or harm?  Was I able to be effective in the way that I approached the conversation or could I have accomplished the same thing another way?
  • Finally, did I “build up” with this conversation or did I “tear down” with my words?

Do you remember the scene in the story of Tom Sawyer where Tom is out painting the picket fence with the white paint?  It is hot, he is tired, painting the fence is the last thing that he wanted to do.  As a couple of Tom’s buddies come by Tom begins to talk about “how fun it is” to be painting the fence.  With just the power of his words mixed in with a little bit of encouragement, in a matter of minutes every kid in the neighborhood is out there painting the fence and Tom has done nothing but use his words to accomplish what he truly wanted, to not paint the fence. But more importantly, he gathered a group of enthusiastic fence painters who transformed the neighborhood with just the use of encouraging words. 

By the way, misspeaking is not the end of the world, if you find that you did something here you did not intend, then simply admit your wrong, apologize for it, and move on.  Sometimes just that one act alone goes a long way to repairing any damage that is done by your words.   It is a part of our “humanness to blow it”, just admit it, apologize, and move on, we all have done this and will continue to do this as long as we live, just acknowledge it an deal with it quickly.

Sticks and stones are not the only thing that can hurt.  Words do have tremendous power to build up, or to tear down.  As a leader use your words carefully and with thought and intention and you will be expressing love and you will find that most folks will follow you anywhere!

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