Lead by Greatness: How Leaders of Character Motivate People

By David Lapin

Appreciation is not just a social law. It is a universal, natural law.

In religion and spirituality, it is well recognized that showing appreciation attracts the universe’s abundance and God’s blessing. Sincerely appreciative people radiate their thankfulness to strangers as they walk down the street. They radiate it to family, colleagues, and customers. And as people radiate appreciation, others, thirsty for appreciation, are drawn to them and want to help and support them in every way they can.

We are wired to help people; we just fear being taken advantage of. So, when we see people who truly value our generosity and know how to show it, we give of ourselves abundantly.

The opposite is true as well. When people feel undervalued, their channels of generosity shut down.

People want to make a difference

I am sure you have heard managers say that no one is indispensable. They do this to make people feel insecure and motivate them to improve.

If, like Frederick Winslow Taylor or Douglas McGregor’s X-Theory managers, we see people as mechanical beings motivated only by self-interest and their instinctual drive for survival and security, then saying that no one is indispensable might work to motivate them, or rather to scare them into performance. But this mantra does nothing to inspire the soul. On the contrary, it undermines people’s sense of uniqueness and their capacity to make a difference.

At their soul level, people want and need to feel that they are trusted, valued, and able to make a difference.

People are wired to try not to disappoint those that trust, respect, and value them. Making people feel valued and indispensable doesn’t diminish their effectiveness, it increases it exponentially. When people feel trusted and valued, they bring their souls, their passions, and their creative, heroic drive to work, making a far bigger difference than anything we might have expected of them. Telling people that they are indispensable doesn’t mean that you or your team could not survive without them; it simply means it would be different without them.

All people, provided they bring their souls to work and not just their bodies, add an ingredient to the team’s energy and dynamic that no one else can. If we want people to bring their souls to work, then we as leaders need to be ready to nourish those souls.

People feel spiritually nourished when their life has meaning, and when they feel honored by others. Telling people they are dispensable does not give them meaning, nor does it honor them. It diminishes their sense of worth and triggers their defensive instincts. They shut down, and we get less from them. Knowing how to say “thank you” sincerely attracts generosity in abundance in ways that nothing else can.

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How to say “Thank You”

The art of an effective thank-you, like any good communication, is not so much in the words as in the feeling you evoke in the other person.

The Hebrew word for “thank you” (todah) appears often in the Bible and comes from the same root as the word for confession. In every thank-you there is an implied confession: “I do not feel deserving of what you have given me or done for me.” Clearly, if you believe you are entitled to what the other person did for you or gave you, you would have no need to say thank you, other than as a superficial courtesy.

A meaningful thank-you is only appropriate if you believe the person did something for you over and above what you deserved. If this is the case, the feeling you want to evoke in the other person is one of your own humility, of appreciation for that person and his or her gesture, and of the certainty that he or she will not be taken for granted.

It is difficult to say thank you, because it exposes a level of vulnerability that we are trained to hide from others. It shows that we need others, that they did something valuable for us, and that we feel in some way indebted to them. This is why only secure people with a high sense of self-esteem and little ego truly convey a sense of gratitude to others in a way that makes them feel honored.

What leaders of character do

Leaders of character set the tone in their organizations by going out of their way to genuinely thank everyone who does anything for them, from the doorman to the CEO, and by insisting that the people in their team do the same. These gestures of character are a leader’s key to their success.

Try taking the risk of doing generous things for people around you; things that are valuable to them but perhaps don’t require a lot from you. And watch the response. You will be pleasantly surprised to see new levels of engagement and commitment from others as your own human greatness is reflected in them, and your team begins to pulsate with soul.

Excerpted with permission of the publisher Avoda Books from LEAD BY GREATNESS: How Character Can Power Your Success by David Lapin. Copyright © 2012 by David Lapin.

David Lapin, rabbi and corporate advisor, is CEO of Lapin International, a leadership consulting company that helps organizations develop inspirational leaders and self-driven teams that outperform the competition. Lapin has earned the respect of global business leaders from his unique ability to identify a business’s most current strategic opportunities and operational challenges while understanding and unraveling the complex dynamics of the human spirit. Contact him at info@lapininternational.com.