Acid Bath or Nourishment?

Followers look to their leaders for helpful feedback so they can move toward achieving their potential. And as people are closer to achieving their potential, their organization benefits in greater sales, higher profits and a host of other positive outcomes.

Take care to not give your followers an acid bath—that’s what Maurer (1994) calls harsh feedback. Consider that the word feedback takes its root in the word “feed.” Feeding allows us to grow, and if we enjoy healthy food, our bodies are nourished. Consider healthy feedback as a tool for positive change, increased self-awareness, and (when delivered appropriately) allows us to grow and be nourished.

Leaders are made in two ways: assigned and emergent. A job as a director, manager, CEO, or other administrator is what makes one an assigned leader. More significant, though, is the emergent leader—a person who acquires leadership because others support and accept the individual’s behavior (Northouse, 2007). The latter happens through positive communication. As a person who nourishes others through healthy feedback, you become an emergent leader.

Consider that you are a leader in any situation in which you have influence with others. Your efficacy as a leader will be reflective of how you exert your influence, whether through negative criticisms or healthy feedback.



Harvard Business School Press (2006). Giving feedback: Expert solutions to everyday challenges. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Maurer, R. (1994). Feedback toolkit: Sixteen tools for better communication in the workplace. Portland, OR: Productivity Press.

Northouse, P. (2007). Leadership theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.




  1. This simple but wise way of approaching others can shift the experience for both parties. I love the thought of “feeding” those we wish to help grow through intentionally crafted feedback. This is something I can use in all my roles from supervisor, teaching, parent and partner. Thanks.

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