“Praise, like sunlight, helps all things to grow.” — Croft M. Pentz 

Praise, appreciation, and recognition are like nourishment to the human spirit. Without them, we cannot grow, and we lose our sense of purpose. We like praise so much that paradoxically, we would often rather be ruined by it than be saved by criticism.

Knowingly or unknowingly, we all strive for validation and appreciation. 

Striving for appreciation and recognition is as natural as breathing. From the perspective of intelligent leadership, praise represents an ideal channel for you, the leader, to improve the working environment of your organization, to increase employee retention, and to encourage psychological ownership in your employees, spurring better individual and team performance.

By delivering sincere and effective praise, you also solidify and elevate your status as a leader.

The Roots of Appreciation and Praise

Some leaders find it more difficult than others to deliver heartfelt praise to their employees and to make them feel genuinely appreciated. Their inability to properly exploit this positive feedback-based channel of communication and encouragement negatively impacts their organizational leadership development efforts as well.

In my bookTalent Leadership, I have identified gratitude as the underlying element of character that provides the basis for the ability to dispense praise and recognition. Feeling and expressing gratitude for the sum of their positive and negative experiences are the hallmarks of mature leaders.

Mature leaders who see setbacks as stepping stones to success are much more likely to develop the ability to spot inherent potential in others and thus to deliver meaningful encouragement in the form of praise and appreciation. Such ability is, without a doubt, one of the highest-impact leadership skills.

The Difference between Appreciation and Recognition

Understanding the difference between appreciation and recognition will help you make proper use of praise in your employee and leadership development efforts.

  • Through recognition, you reward an employee for a well-defined deed or accomplishment. Recognition can take material shape through a monetary reward, a promotion, or a thank-you note.
  • Appreciation is gratitude for the inherent value a certain employee represents to your organization. This value mainly comprises the future potential you see in this employee.

Recognition is in short supply and it is conditioned. The person receiving it needs to have turned in a performance-based accomplishment in the past.

Appreciation, on the other hand, is future- and potential-focused. You can support your team members through appreciation even when there are no positive outcomes to celebrate, or more colloquially: when the going is tough.

Appreciation provides support in times of need.

How Does the Intelligent Leader Show Appreciation? 

With its roots planted in leadership, maturity, and gratitude, appreciation blossoms through empathy.

  • Listen to your reports. Pay attention and let them know that you care. Do not turn a deaf ear to their woes and problems. Check in with them regularly and let them voice their concerns. Develop genuine connections.
  • Be clear about what you appreciate in them and what you view as their strengths. Such subtle encouragement can improve their sense of self-worth and importance. It will also nudge them to assume psychological ownership.
  • Be fair and show due gratitude for the efforts and sacrifices your employees make.

Do not forget to appreciate and be grateful for your own talents and leadership skills. Be aware that if you make people feel good about themselves, you become the type of leader they will gladly follow.

Leadership harbors many opportunities to improve an organization. If you are a leader, you cannot afford to leave the power of praise and commendation untapped.


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