One of the things I often end up reminding leaders of (myself included) is to acknowledge people for the great work they’re doing.

With nothing else added, this suggestion would be trite and platitudinal.

“Great job, now, about this flaming pile of garbage that is your leadership…”

Generally speaking, “Great job” is a platitude. It’s something we say to try and soften you up for the real feedback we want to provide.

“Great job” is what I have to say, in order to get you to hear what I need to say.

To cross the threshold from leadership that placates, to leadership that transforms, you have to do some work.

The first, and most important part, is to realize that anytime someone is practising leadership, they are doing a great job.

Leadership is challenging and edgy. It requires getting out onto the skinny branches, and putting yourself at risk of getting it wrong.

Anytime someone is practising like this, in the face of their fear, they are doing a great job.

The trouble is that they, and we, step over ourselves with our expectations of where we should be. “We should already know this, this should be easy, I shouldn’t be struggling with this…”

In the flash of a moment, the great job we’re doing becomes how we’re not enough.


To be transformational, you have to acknowledge the great job that people are already doing, and to really do that, you have to do the hard work of seeing that great work for yourself.

That means you can’t let yourself off the hook with platitudes. If you can’t genuinely see the great work someone is doing, that is a sign of your work to be done, not theirs.

A leader committed to transformation takes a stand that there will be no platitudes. They do the hard work necessary to see, in the depths of their heart, the great work everyone is doing around them.

When you can genuinely see the great work people around you are already doing, you shift “Great job!” from a platitude that placates, to an acknowledgment that transforms.