Lesson #3 for Positive Leaders: Make People Feel Important!

Let me start with a clarification. This list of important lessons for positive leaders are numbered for logical progression, not importance. These lessons are equally essential to the success of positive leaders; they are interdependent.

Lesson #3 – “Make people feel important,” is crucial to the development of the positive relationships that make successful organizations and classrooms special places to be. The ability to make people feel special is essential for cultivating a powerful motivation for success whether at learning or striving for achievement in any venture.

Doing it is as simple as it sounds. Truly like them and if they are among those individuals who are difficult to like, work a little harder. For teachers, you must learn to look beyond the behavior and recognize the challenges they present to you are consequences of circumstances over which they had little or no control.  You are each student’s opportunity for a “do over,” where they write off the past and begin anew. Shower them with affirmation and affection through your words and actions.

Help them learn that success is a process. Help them begin at the point on the academic, social, and emotional preparedness continuum where you found them when they arrived at their door. Measure their progress against their own, unique pathway and never against the performance of others. Learn how to convey genuine concern for their welfare even when giving them constructive feedback.

From the moment when they come to believe you genuinely care about them and are committed to helping them be successful, they will begin to accept responsibility for their own success. This, also, is a process of growth so do not be alarmed or disappointed with lapses. Again, shower them with affection, affirmation and help them celebrate their success enthusiastically. You will also have boys and girls, men and women, who will go the extra mile for you.   Treat them as special people because, indeed, they are.

Also, work to create an atmosphere of mutual support and affection in your organizations or classrooms; one in which everyone cheers for everyone else. Remember that in life, in organizations and in classrooms, relationships are everything. Pay special attention to the affirmation of one student/team member by another. This is behavior that positive leaders strive to foster and reinforce.

It seems counter-intuitive but “make people feel important” serves our own self-interest because we are all better off if every individual is emotionally healthy and productive.

This is also the irony of positive leadership in that the best thing a positive leader can do to ensure their own success is to help their people achieve success. Mastering that process requires that they understand that mistakes are not something to be feared, they are learning opportunities.

But mistakes and disappointing outcomes are not just learning opportunities they are opportunities to bond. Teach them to laugh at their mistakes by laughing at your own. Help them learn that disappointing outcomes that result from extending themselves are not mistakes at all. They are experiments and the lessons learned from them are, themselves, successes to be celebrated.

Remember, “if you are not falling down once in a while, you are not really skiing.”

“Make people feel important” is imperative for teachers. Positive teachers must learn to look at every child as a seed pod, of sorts, within which lies some future accomplishment that will add an element of beauty to the world. Your job is to nurture that seed and help it germinate and blossom. Who knows what great things your students may achieve, someday.

We said, in Lesson #1 that it is not about you. The truth is that your success is a function of the success of the people you serve and lead and the students you teach. It is sort of a cosmic “what goes around comes around” scenario.

In 1982, Zig Ziglar, in his book See You At the Top1, may have said it best when he wrote:

“You can get everything you want and need out life if you help enough other people get what they want and need.”[1]

It truly is a prescription for positive leadership, not to mention a wonderful life.


[1] Ziglar, Zig, See You At the Top, Pelican Publishing Co., Gretna, LA, 1982.

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