Appreciation: The difference between a Leader and Manager Think of the last time you told your mother that the food she cooked was really bad!

By Vipul Mehta

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I was given some work by my manager in one of my previous organizations. I worked on it the whole day, finished it to the best I could and with a sense of achievement and happiness, shared it with him. Next morning I came to know what I had done was not quite what he was expecting. When he called me to his office and to my surprise, he straight away started telling me the things I have missed.

The same incident repeated over time and I understood not to expect a lot of appreciation from him for sure!

A Sense of Achievement

It is a fact that every time I finish some work to the best that I can, I feel a sense of achievement. Think of the last time you did something that was stuck for a while. Imagine the feeling of achievement that you felt when you completed that work.

Work can be of many types. Some work is given to me by another person such as a parent, a boss, a friend, a wife/husband, a child, even a stranger at times. Getting groceries for the house, doing some office work, your friend asking you to speak to someone on their behalf, a child asking for a chocolate, a stranger asking you for a particular address or to help them cross the road, the examples are endless.

And then there is another kind of work, which I give to myself, or even at times the God, or for the ones who don't believe in the word, the situation gives to me. Completing my book, working on my next blog post, writing my speech or the content for a lecture are the former kinds of work that I give to myself. Some other times the situation demands something to be done. Calling the electrician for a fault in the Air Conditioner, going to the hospital to meet an injured friend or any similar situations, where things are not in my control are situation-driven work.

The important thing to understand is that every time I have finished some work, I have felt a sense of achievement. In other words, the expectation of the giver (another person, I myself, or the God/situation) was fulfilled which gave me a relief in my mind.

With this sense of achievement comes another expectation of Appreciation!

As the doer does the thing that was expected out of her/him, she/he feels happy and expects something in return, an appreciation being the most fundamental.


Appreciation is a tricky thing! For one because many a times we don't want to appreciate others as that would mean they did better than us. In other words, there is a mental block of hurting my ego when it comes to appreciating someone. Another reason is many times we don't feel as if what they have done is worth deserving an appreciation.

Think of my manager in the Situation 1. As per him, the work that I had done was just okay, not worthy of an appreciation. In other words, it fell under the Norm side of the spectrum of his Exception-Norm continuum.

This is what most of us do. Whenever someone does something and gives it to us – be it our mother giving us dinner or a friend giving us a gift or a subordinate sharing some work that we asked them to do, we appreciate them when we find it "great'. In other words, we appreciate them when we find the work to be a positive Exception!

At all other times, we either don't say anything or share a negative feedback if the work is really bad. Think of the last time you told your mother that the food she cooked was really bad!

The Average Receiver

This is the gap, a fundamental gap between the doer and the receiver. While the doer, at every step of the process of completing a work is feeling a sense of achievement which comes with an expectation of appreciation, the receiver is looking for a positive Exception to appreciate. In other words, the doer expects an appreciation after completion of every work, no matter how small or big it may be. On the other hand, it is totally in the hands of the receiver to give the appreciation.

An average receiver gives an appreciation only when she/he feels the work is an Exception.

The Leader

This is where I differentiate a Leader with a Manager or an average receiver. The Leader understands that the need for appreciation is a fundamental need, the Leader understands that words have power and a simple "Thank You' for the minutest of the things that anybody has done for her/him has the potential to go a long way.

A Leader, therefore, never shies away from appreciating another even for smaller achievements. Even for smaller work areas, where I know what is done is only a Norm for me, I appreciate the person for what they have done, suggest ways of improvement and let them get back to their work.

Over time, what I am doing is fulfilling the other person's fundamental need for appreciation and building a relation built on trust which will give the most wonderful fruits for both and is expected to last the longest.

The Leader understands that every time someone does something that she/he asked them to do, they take out time and do it out of their own free will. It does not matter whether they are my employees and they have to do it. What matters is that they are with me helping build the organisation we are in. With this understanding, there is a sense of gratitude and with this gratitude comes appreciation.

Further, add to it the fact that there are so few people in the world doing this, that the moment one begins appreciating for small wins they already are in a position of advantage and have become a Leader in the eyes of the other.

Think-it-over: How many times have you appreciated someone for their small achievements? What impact do you think it had on them and on your relationship with them as you appreciated them? The idea is not false appreciation for the sake of it. The idea is to understand the need for appreciation and to fulfill that need with genuineness.

Appreciation is a habit. The more you start appreciating small wins, the more you start looking for small wins to appreciate. And the more close relations you start to build.

Vipul Mehta

Strategy Manager, WeAreHolidays & Author of Agastya Maurya Blog

Mehta is a JP Morgan intern and has worked with Deloitte Consulting as Business Technology Analyst. Later in 2013, he Co-founded Sun Photonics, a start-up in Solar Renewable Energy space.

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