• WSL Leadership

Cultivating Leaders with Appreciation


I frequently hear from people in organizations (particularly non profit organizations) who want to cultivate more leaders from within but are struggling to get people to step into leadership roles.


One huge barrier to people stepping up is that they see and hear (and maybe are repeatedly told) that leaders in the orgnaization are not appreciated.


Appreciation won’t fix the systemic and cultural problems that lead to 60+ hour work weeks, low pay or a toxic work environment. But, when done well, it can empower people to bring their best to their work and persist in the face of challenging tasks.


Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Paul White wrote a book called The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. You may remember them from their other big book: The 5 Love Languages - and the 5 Languages of Appreciation follows a similar format.


They find that when we find authentic ways to show appreciation to our teammates and leaders we are able to increase loyalty and volunteers in the organization.


The 5 languages of appreciation are:

  • Words of affirmation

  • Quality time

  • Acts of service

  • Tangible gifts

  • Appropriate physical touch


The doctors discuss how we show appreciation and how we want to receive appreciation are not always the same. We under value some of the languages based on what we prefer but that doesn’t mean your leaders and teammates share our same values.


I bring up this topic (and book) frequently when leaders tell me morale is low on their teams. Often appreciation is non-existent or it is rote and impersonal which is even more damaging to their teammates’ sense of connection.


There are nuances to each of the languages. I get into them more of the details in a podcast episode I recorded about the book. You can find it here or here. Also look for the Books Applied Podcast on iTunes, Google Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, etc to find the Five Languages of Appreciation episode.


Authentically showing appreciation is one powerful way to support your leaders and cultivate more of them.