If you are a leader, you should never forget that everyone needs encouragement. And everyone who receives it- young or old, successful or less-than-successful, unknown or famous- is changed by it.
A story is told of American painter, John Sargent, who once painted a panel of roses that was highly praised by his critics. It was a small picture, but it approached perfection.
Although offered a high price for it on many occasions, Sargent refused to sell it. He considered it his best work and was very proud of it. Whenever he was deeply discouraged and doubtful of his abilities as an artist, he would look at it and remind himself, “I painted that.” Then his confidence and ability would come back to him.
In all of my years in leadership, I have yet to find a leader who didn’t want, need, or appreciate encouragement. I believe it’s a universal need and one not just exclusive to leaders. Regardless of your walk in life, who doesn’t appreciate some encouragement along the way?
The above story is a reminder to us of some simple truths in leadership. Let me share three with you.
Every leader has value
John Sargent is considered to be the leading portrait painter of his generation. His mark on the world was made through the arts.
Your gifts or talents may not revolve around being a distinguished artist, but your value exists in other areas. Perhaps you have organizational gifts that keep your business running smooth. You might be the visionary that causes people to see the big picture which creates the necessary momentum to plan for the future. You might be the change agent who speaks the truth about what needs to happen for the sake of your future. (I wrote about how you can add value to your respective organizations here.)
The point here is this: You are a person of value not because of what you do but because of who you are. Your value is more than what you contribute to the bottom line.
Every leader has doubts
Despite his acclaim as an artist, John Sargent still had seasons of discouragement and moments when he called his own abilities into question. Sound familiar?
At some point in time, I think every leader experiences the same struggle. I have. (I wrote about facing your doubts and fears here). We look at heroes in our respective fields of expertise and we say, “If I can only be successful like them, then I will have it made,” not realizing they most likely had the same struggle.
We unfairly compare ourselves to others and think that because we haven’t reached the same level of fame or success then we are a failure – not realizing it may have taken them decades to get there and we want to be there in a fraction of the time. It’s unrealistic and self-defeating. And in the end, discouragement sets in.
The point here is this: You are not the sum of your doubts and fears. And your growth and development as a leader is not a 50-yard dash, it’s a marathon.
Every leader has a sweet spot
John Sargent held on to the prized painting as a reminder of his talents. In moments of self-doubt or discouragement, it motivated him to keep going.
The sweet spot in your leadership comes when you realize that you are not as great as the headlines you write yourself. You are not as bad as the headlines your enemies or critics write. Joy in leadership comes when you discover your why, find fulfillment in the moment, and live for something greater than yourself. (I wrote about finding your purpose in leadership here).
For Sargent, his sweet spot moment came when his focus was on his best work, not his worse. Train yourself to look at the positive. Don’t allow the negative things to define you.
The point here is this: How you rise above self-doubt and discouragement begins with how you see yourself.
Have you found your sweet spot?