Point the finger

Friendly Reminder: A weekly reflection from the Quaker Leadership Center

One of my favorite things to do these days is spending time with my little nieces. It’s fun to watch them grow through each stage of development. One of them, who is about to turn one, is in a pointing stage. She has learned how to lift her tiny hand and point her finger toward something or someone she wants to touch or play with or put in her mouth. With me, she likes to point her finger up to the ceiling fan so I will push the blades around and get it whirling.

It’s cute. But she’s also “pointing out” something important about leadership. Not about pointing to things we want to play with. Not about “pointing the finger” in blame. But “pointing the finger” in praise. Yes, to God. But also toward those in our organization, meeting or business who are doing good work.

We often approach recognition and appreciation through the lens of scarcity. We worry that if we lift up someone else’s ministry, then ours won’t get noticed. We fear that giving someone credit publicly means our contribution will go unrecognized. But healthy leadership moves with an abundance mentality. We don’t have to compete and tussle for power and praise. There is plenty to go around. And we need each other to do the sacred work we are called to do.

At the Quaker Leadership Center, we decided early on that we did not want to compete with other Friends leaders and organizations. We wanted to learn about and lift up Quaker leaders doing all kinds of creative, spiritual work in the world. We want to support their ministry, learn from them, and be clear about our own scope of work. In other words, we want to people who point the finger.

Giving thanks and praise to others is not only a nice spiritual practice. It’s also a skillful leadership move. In the words of writer and activist Lynne Twist, “what we appreciate, appreciates.” When we appreciate initiative, integrity, and creativity, those qualities tend to expand in our organization. Appreciation encourages the one receiving praise to continue their good work, it lifts up examples for others to emulate, and cultivates a positive culture others want to join.

This Thanksgiving week, I invite you to choose two or three people you want to publicly praise. Say thank you. Say well-done. Be specific. Be public. You can do it during a Sunday morning service, using social media or a staff meeting. There’s no need for scarcity and competition in the peaceable kingdom. Give your praise generously. Point the finger.