leadership joshua miller

Is there such thing as too much praise for a new leader?

The short answer is yes. Absolutely.

For many new leaders, the transition into a new role, company or culture is often accompanied by some form of internal and/or external PR.

In some cases, it’s the full red carpet treatment while for others it feels more like an Ikea 5×7 red area rug. Regardless of the color or size – new leaders typically walk into a situation that they aren’t always prepared to deal with. I call this the curse of the new leader.

Let’s face it, people rarely turn down an acknowledgement and when you are facing a new company, team and responsibilities – it would appear to make perfect sense to take all the help you can get – especially in the form of praise. But what if that help was doing more harm than good?

What if all that praise has gone to not just your head but impacted those you serve?

Too much praise can put you on a pedestal and the last time I checked, a few things can happen from there:

1) You fall off.

2) You become stagnant and collect dust.

Or most importantly…

3) You begin to believe the hype.

There are many dangers when you sit at the top. Most of them can be attributed to your ego and the power that comes with your new role but regardless if you asked for it, you now got it so it’s time to suck it up and put on your big girl/boy pants.

Lets start with breaking down the difference between receiving praise and being put on a pedestal. For many (including myself) – I had no idea of just how fine the line was when distinguishing these two things.

THE DIFFERENCES: Praise vs. Worship

To make this easier to digest, I want to infer that when we put people on a pedestal, we are essentially setting them up for worship – not in a religious sense but simply as a figure in which people should acknowledge. One of the biggest differences between praise and worship is that, praise can be somewhat distant in character and nature while worship tends to be more intimate. Here are the main differences between praise and worship:

  • Praise means showing your warm approval or admiration of someone.
  • Worship, on the other hand, means the expression or feeling of reverence and adoration for a deity, or even an elder in some cultures.
  • Worship involves both giving and receiving. Thus, only one way is possible in the case of praise, whereas two ways are possible in the case of worship.
  • The one who worships is unassuming and the one who praises is not unassuming.
  • Determining whether someone is worshipping or not is difficult. However, it is easy to determine whether or not someone is praising.
  • Praise is felt by others; worship is not felt by others.

As a leader, all eyes are on you and the optics tell the story for which people will perceive. It’s important to play close attention to how you behave with others and how others treat you.

THE IMPACT: Everyone feels it

While being admired is a great feeling, being put on a pedestal isn’t. Consider that if someone is placing you above them, it would insinuate that they feel less than you. As a leader, is that the type of culture you wish to lead?

By being placed on a pedestal, you are being held to a higher standard than others and that’s not necessarily a bad thing as you are of course the new leader. However, being placed on a pedestal doesn’t always allow for as rich and meaningful of relationship or exchange that simply praising someone can provide.

  • The problem with putting people on a pedestal is that we sometimes take ourselves off it.

It’s okay to have self-confidence and you should own it as a leader but in the immortal words of Public Enemy, “Don’t believe the hype” or at best, be vigilant about what people are saying and showing you as their new leader. Too much praise can lead to the curse, and the impact from there is quite real and sometimes painful. The biggest impact and overall detriment to the people is that the individual (that means you) becomes overly selfish and as a result no longer pull their weight. It becomes about them and not us or we. The people they serve can lose their perspective, purpose and better judgement allowing their leader to slide through the day unaccountable.

According to a recent HBR article, one of the biggest concerns with too much praise is that your leader becomes too focused on being liked and as a result doesn’t want to mess that up and will potentially forgo making the tough decisions due to being intellectually compromised.

THE SOLUTION: Accountability for all

As there are two sides to every story, there are two ways a company can avoid creating a dictatorship versus fostering a dynamic and healthy leader for their organization. Let’s start with what employees can do:

  • Be careful with your compliments. This doesn’t mean being quiet but rather be cautious in how you craft your compliments. Avoid over the top statements and look to keep the focus on a specific action, achievement or outcome versus your personally feelings. Acknowledge how, why and when you compare yourself to your leader. We all have egos but that doesn’t mean it should be doing the driving. Tell you ego to take a backseat and pay close attention to your limiting beliefs and where you are projecting them in the workplace.

For the leader, it’s a bit more complex:

  • Constantly check your ego at the door and look at your values and beliefs on a daily basis changing what doesn’t serve you. Your brain is hardwired for automatic judgments and they happen so fast and so frequently that it’s tough for even the most mindful individual to catch them all. The good news is that it’s possible to rewire your brain and as a leader you will be expected to do so. You were hired not just based on your resume and accomplishments but also on being a culture match. Remember what you stand for, what your company stands for and how you can deliver on their mission while fulfilling your purpose.

Final thoughts: No one ever said being a new leader was going to be fun or easy but that doesn’t mean it can’t. It simply means you need to start acting like one and that begins every day before you step foot inside the workplace. Stay focused and stay grounded. Take in the praise but don’t overdose on it. Remember what got you to where you are today and why you were hired to lead the organization you work for.

The floor is yours: How much praise is too much when you’re leading others?

Please leave your comment below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.

With leadership,

Joshua / www.JoshHMiller.com

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