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Strong Leaders Also Nurture

Strong Leaders Also Nurture

Leaders are usually judged by how many followers they have. If you follow Twitter or Facebook pages, the number of followers is often used as an indicator of success. However, an important goal of leadership is to create more leaders and to nurture and provide support of those who are inclined to follow. Nalph Nader is often quoted as saying, "The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers." 

Effective leaders want to build a legacy. They want others to thrive. They genuinely care about people with whom they work.

This means that effective leaders recognize the need to help people grow and develop. This requires not only a change in attitude; it requires a change in body and language.

That change means that effective leaders slip out of their powerful bodies into a more receptive presence, the Stance of Nurturing.

The Nurturing Stance, like those of Connection and Flexibility may be difficult for leaders who thrive on power and who are driven to win. A Nurturing Stance is a softer presence that requires practice for a leader who is used to showing authority and control.

Let's take a look at a couple of images that demonstrate the Nurturing Stance.

© 1986 Túrelio (via Wikimedia-Commons), 1986 / , via Wikimedia Commons

Although she received some criticism for her methods, Mother Teresa demonstrated humility and a nurturing spirit that allowed her to have a tremendous impact on the care of the sick, dying and homeless in India and other countries. She was a leader because she connected with others who were willing to work beside her and to donate large sums of money to create a new future for the less fortunate.

Affective Leaders coach, mentor, support and assist others. They develop genuine emotional connections. Not only do followers need to see and sense this desire and presence in them, but leaders need to experience connection with others that offers them a much-needed sense of purpose and accomplishment.

The image (left) of Dean Marie Lynn Miranda at University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment clearly represents the Stance of Nurturing.

University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment Follow Marie Lynn Miranda Conversation with Dean Miranda at the Dow Commons on February 21, 2013. (Angela J. Cesere

The Nurturing body disposition is fully centered and completely focused on the person or persons we want to support and lead. The body leans slightly forward and conveys an attitude of concern and protectiveness.

Hands may reach out to touch the person who is speaking. The eyes are attentive and the voice is soft and caring. This body disposition may suggest wisdom.

As you are with other people, notice your presence. Is it too powerful for the situation? Are you fully centered? Are you truly curious?


To practice the Stance of Nurturing-

  • Relax and center.
  • Block all concerns out of  your mind except that of the person with whom you are speaking.
  • Lean forward slightly.
  • Be curious. Ask questions. 
  • Look into the eyes of the other person...without staring them down. 
  • Open your eyes in wonder or curiosity. Show caring or concern but never pity or condescension. The most important attitude is the one described by Carl Rogers as Unconditional Position Regard

Leaders who nurture relationships in human beings do the following.

  • They encourage others to talk about themselves and their interests.
  • They make other people feel important.
  • They remember names and personal circumstances.
  • They ask questions and allow others to find their own solutions.
  • They praise good work and show genuine appreciation.
  • They show respect and allow others to save face even when they make mistakes.
  • They admit errors and discuss their own mistakes.
  • They appeal to purpose and mission…noble motives.
  • They are sympathetic to the other person’s point of view.
  • They hold others accountable without complaining, criticizing or arguing.

They do all these things not only because they become more successful; they do them because they also feel good.

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Adapted from Connect: Affective Leadership for Effective Results with permission.


Cherry, K. (2015) What is Unconditional Positive Regard?


  • Featured image: Official GDC Conversation, on Flickr, CC with attribution
  • Mother Teresa: © 1986 Túrelio (via Wikimedia-Commons), 1986. CC with attribution.
  • Conversations with the Dean: Marie Lynn Miranda at University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment at the Dow Commons on February 21, 2013. (Angela J. Cesere) CC with Attribution