The 1/50 Effect: How Encouragement Defines Your Leadership


A word of encouragement from a leader can inspire a person to reach her potential. –  John Maxwell

Edward Steichen, who eventually became one of the world’s most renowned photographers, almost gave up on the day he shot his first pictures. At 16, young Steichen bought a camera and took 50 photos. Only one turned out — a portrait of his sister at the piano. Edward’s father thought that was a poor showing. But his mother insisted that the photograph of his sister was so beautiful that it more than compensated for 49 failures.

Her encouragement convinced the youngster to stick with his new hobby. He stayed with it for the rest of his life, but it had been a close call. What tipped the scales? The vision to spot excellence in the midst of a lot of failure.

If you were to look back on your life when faced with great doubt or uncertainty during times of fear, career transition, sickness, or other personal struggle – one thing on a short list of game changers would no doubt be the encouragement from a friend or loved one.

In the case of Edward Steichen, the encouragement came from his mother to not give up on his dream of being a photographer. What about you? Who was the person(s) who spoke words of hope, inspiration, or encouragement into your life at that pivotal moment that help turn it around for you?

As a leader you have incredible opportunities every day to speak words of encouragement and inspiration into the lives of those around you. You may never know or understand the power of those words today, or ever, but it can be transformational nonetheless.

Being an encouraging leader will not only define your leadership style, but it will also define your leadership legacy. Encouraging leaders are cut from a different cloth. Do you desire to be an encouraging leader? If so, here are four characteristics that will set you apart.

Encouraging leaders see beyond the failures

The myth surrounding encouraging leaders is that they live with their heads in the sand and are somehow detached from any sense of reality. I submit that the opposite is true. Encouraging leaders are perhaps some of the most attuned leaders you will find not because they refuse to look at negatives, setbacks, or failures, but because although they do see it, and they refuse to let others be defined by it.

Defining trait: Encouraging leaders keep dreams alive.

Encouraging leaders care enough to confront

Just as Edward Steichen’s mother confronted him during a time of great self-doubt about his abilities, so too will encouraging leaders take the same approach. Encouraging leaders know that if negative thoughts and self-doubt linger too long then the path forward will be much harder to conquer. An encouraging leader will care enough to disturb negative thinking and help you forget about the 49 pictures that didn’t turn out and focus on the one that did. There is no time to wallow in self-pity with the encouraging leader.

Defining trait: Encouraging leaders have no tolerance for negative attitudes.

Encouraging leaders take risks on the future

Seeing beyond failures and caring enough to confront are only part of the equation for an encouraging leader. Ultimately, it’s up to the individual to act in a manner that is consistent with his or her potential. But encouraging leaders are those special leaders who had rather risk growth and potential by speaking words of encouragement and faith than by encouraging conformity and mediocrity by playing it safe. By speaking words of encouragement the leader is planting seeds of faith and possibility into his or her people that they otherwise may have never thought possible.

Defining trait: Encouraging leaders inspire action.

Encouraging leaders take everyone to a higher level

Defining moments in your leadership come when you realize that when you speak words of encouragement to your people it is like pushing the “up” button on an elevator. Your words and actions as an encourager will open doors of opportunity that negativity never will. The seeds you plant in their minds and hearts will elevate them to higher places because you believed in your people and dared to encourage them.

Defining trait: Encouraging leaders elevate the potential in others.

You will define your leadership, in part, by your words and actions. Be an encouraging leader!


© 2015 Doug Dickerson


Additional Resources:

Here is a short list of leaders who are high on my list of encouragers. Visit their sites, sign up and follow their blogs and be encouraged!

Cynthia Bazin – Find her at:

Jack Hickey – Find him at:

Paul Sohn: Find him at:

Elizabeth Stincelli – Find her at:

Andy Wood – Find him at:



About dougdickerson

I am Certified Leadership Trainer, author, columnist, and speaker. Husband to Alicia, father to Katelyn and Kara, and "Pop" to terrific grandson Tyson. I am an avid photographer, love the outdoors, and like to travel. I'm passionate about sharing my leadership insights and helping people reach their full potential.
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One Response to The 1/50 Effect: How Encouragement Defines Your Leadership

  1. Pingback: The 1/50 Effect: How Encouragement Defines Your Leadership | lizstincelli

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