Cognitive Behavioral Leadership (CBL): Celebrate Your Incremental ProgressPosted on November 17, 2019

Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

By nature, most leaders are impatient. This longing for immediate gratification is a barrier successful leaders must face and overcome. No leader looks forward to the inevitable setbacks, mistakes, and failures that mark the path to eventual success. When the going is tough and progress stalls, it is easy to become discouraged and quit. Many do.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

By celebrating your small accomplishments, you can sustain your efforts despite the disappointments that would incline less hearty leaders to hoist a white flag.

How can you do it?

  1. Take nothing for granted. It is easy to overlook the little things such as a frontline staff member reporting a bigwig’s disruptive behavior, or a net-negative staff members’ decision to leave the organization instead of waiting to be forced out.
  2. Make a big deal of it. When an angry physician apologizes for this behavior, call this out as evidence that the organizational culture is evidently improving. And compliment the regretful physician. Positive reinforcement works a lot better than negative reinforcement anyway.
  3. Use incremental progress to teach persistence. People who are determined to lose 50 pounds and keep it off, celebrate every pound lost and every pound they have not regained. They understand their quest will demand a lifetime commitment to permanent changes to their lifestyle. And they understand they will have to slog through many relapses. The best leaders teach these critical lessons to their struggling colleagues.

How have you celebrated incremental progress on your leadership journey?

Leave a Reply


  • More information
  • (740) 356-5000