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Positive Reinforcement

Insights may occur in a flash, but this is rarely true of lasting transformation. Translating insights into new ways of relating to ourselves and others is usually a long, uneven process. Successful transformation is assisted by reinforcement when we are successful at changing a behavior and disconfirmation when we are not. Reinforcement and disconfirmation require an outside agent, and followers can perform this role for a leader. It will help to bear these principles in mind when providing reinforcement:

Constant correction erodes self-confidence.

If leaders feel assaulted or harassed, they will wall themselves off from continued criticism to protect their self-esteem and ability to exercise power.

It is far more important to acknowledge leaders when they display some of the desired behavior than it is to correct them because they have not effected all of it.

Catching leaders in the act of “doing the right thing” helps them form a permanent memory of what the desired behavior looks and feels like.

Acknowledging small, positive changes builds confidence about change itself and the rewards change brings.

Disconfirmation is needed when appropriate, but we must make sure that we are even more quick to notice and acknowledge improvements.