Acknowledgement: The Third Responsibility of a Leader

“Leaders don’t inflict pain; they bear pain.” Max De Pree

People in this world need someone to acknowledge that they exist. Rene’ Descartes is noted for his saying, “I think therefore I am.” As true as that statement is, it is worthless without acknowledgement of another human being. We should note that Descartes used his interaction with people to develop his own unique views about life.

In terms of leadership and organizations, each employee needs to know that its leaders know they are on the job. Therefore, a leader has to find ways to acknowledge each employee. John Maxwell tells the story of an apprentice preacher in his organization. One day the preacher came into the office and although other employees and members of the church were in the foyer and mingling around the office area, this apprentice preacher, this would be leader, marched right past them without speaking or acknowledging their presence. John says he called the young preacher into his office to discuss his actions. He asked the young preacher why he had not bothered to acknowledge the people present on his way into his office. John said he told him, he was busy and had a lot of work to do and just wanted to dive right in. John remarked, “Those people you just ignored are your business.” Leaders should remember at all times that people are the most important asset in any organization.

According to Robert Slater (2003), one of Jack Welch’s leadership secrets is “Nurture employees who share the company’s values” (p.23). In other words, a leader has to ensure that those employees and managers who embrace the company’s goals and visions are acknowledged and affirmed in some way. According to Welch, “Give employees more responsibility, and they will make better decisions. By making your employees more accountable, you make your organization more productive” (Slater, 2003, p.25).

Leaders should use both spontaneous and systematic methods of acknowledgement to recognize its employees. But above all, a friendly greeting is crucial when leaders interact with employees at every level. “I think therefore I am” means little if no other person acknowledges that fact.

I urge leaders to ensure they acknowledge those who both support the team and those who do not. Each person is valuable in their skin. Even when they don’t support your efforts, you should still value their existence. Even when hard decisions are necessary regarding their position or continuance with the company, you should treat them with dignity and respect and thank them for the contributions they had made up to that point.

De Pree, M. (2004). Leadership is an art. New York, NY: Doubleday.
Slater, R. (2003). 29 Leadership secrets from Jack Welch. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Descartes, R. (2014) Wiki “Rene’ Descartes. Retrieved from’_Descartes

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