While I was at a conference earlier this week, I was reminded of a key leadership skill that I often fail to exhibit. That skill… being the cheerleader.

I am not sure if it is the outfit, the childish chants or just all of the unnecessary jumping, but for whatever reason I am not the cheerleader type. There are times when I would rather just sit on the bench and complain about how the coach never put me in the game than go and become a cheerleader.

You see when it comes down to teamwork I have two gifts, the first is to lead and the second is to complain about how the team is being led. If you ask me, those are two great gifts and both end up making me the center of attention. I have disguised them in many different forms. It is easy to disguise the leader gift as just an ambitious follower, but when it comes to the complaining one it is much easier to dress up. I have used the phrase constructive criticism, providing alternative methods to accomplish the goal, and even the old “your way is great but have you thought about doing it this way?” To be honest, disguising the complaining gift is a gift in itself. However, this little note is more about becoming a cheerleader, not disguising your gift.

I have had the chance to coach many different sports teams over the years, and there is nothing that encourages the team more than when the fans get behind the team. The energy level goes up, the team feels better about themselves; it just changes the climate of the event. It is always great when a sports team wins and then they say that they have the best fans in the world. No matter how much you love the game, playing in an empty stadium is not the same. There is more energy when the fans are there to cheer for you.

This is where the leadership skill comes in. As I have already stated, I am not the best cheerleader. I tend to be critical and, to be honest, sometimes discouraging. So I am sharing this because it is an area where I need a lot of improvement. As leaders, we need to cheer our team on to success. We need to be the ones that are acting crazy when our team is struggling down the final part of the race. We need to be waving our pom-poms and getting the crowd involved. After all, this is our team, we have faith in them; they might be tired and worn out by missed deadlines and lack of progress, but we need to have faith in them and show them by cheering them on.

Now don’t get me wrong. I do not want you to come up with cheers and start wearing crazy outfits. Cheering from a leadership perspective can be as simple as an encouraging word, a hand written note, a public acknowledgment of their hard work or even recognition by a small gift. In the end, cheering from the leadership chair is simply the public (or private) appreciation of your team. They need to know that you are on their side and that you are proud to be on their team. Just imagine if each of your team had a jersey and one day you came to the team meeting wearing Joe’s #8. Or if you had his name and number on your computer desktop. The team needs to know you support them.

This week’s experiment is simple but necessary, and I will try as well, cheer for your team. Acknowledge them and show them your appreciation. Go buy a jersey with their name on it and cheer them on.