What We Are Reading

Book: “Encouraging the Heart”
Author: Kouzes and Posner
Reviewed by: Shara Lee, Campus Director, Faculty & Instructional Development, Osceola Campus and Lake Nona campusesslice

As part of the Pivot 180 leadership development program at Valencia, I had the distinct pleasure of reading “Encouraging the Heart” by Kouzes and Posner. To be honest, I had my doubts about this book. It explored only one of five leadership practices that the authors consider crucial, and truthfully, I have read many books on leadership that share great theory without helping me to apply it.

However, the authors begin right away by addressing my concerns, sharing that they wrote this entire book on one leadership principle because there were insufficient publications on the topic and many misconceptions about this “softer” side of leadership in the workplace.encouraging-the-heart-200w

I was pleasantly surprised by the overall structure, which lightly summarized decades of rigorous research, shared illustrative examples from everyday leaders, rather than just executives, and provided an entire chapter listing 150 suggestions for “encouraging the heart” in my workplace.

The concept of encouraging the heart is rooted in the dichotomous nature of leadership … the need to be tough while tender, blend firm and fair and show guts with grace (xvi).

I was particularly taken with certain ideas like the connection between great leadership and great teaching through paths such as the art of storytelling and personalized encouragement. An idea that really resonated with me as I thought about the campus-based structure of Valencia was the notion that leadership is a relationship and therefore can’t be exercised from a distance (29).

Although I’m certain that “can’t” is a word that I rarely feel comfortable using, I will say that it prompted me to look at my calendar with more deliberate intentions to attend meetings and connect with colleagues face-to-face, consider the phone instead of email and focus on the relationships I have with my colleagues rather than just their work.

Another concept that I really liked was the notion that great leadership is founded upon the capacity for self-improvement (33). I previously believed that development was a slightly selfish indulgence, focusing internally while asking colleagues to wait an extra day for my contributions.

This book helped me to realize that the effort that I invest in developing myself today may mean that I might have an extra ball or two to juggle in the short-term, but that I am expanding my capacity for the service of leadership in the long-term. Development and continuous improvement are not ancillary to my primary role — they are every bit a part of the commitment I make to myself, my department, my colleagues and our College.

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