I consider myself an “encourager,” but a recent experience expanded my definition.

Previously, to “encourage” meant to be positive. To offer praise. To be an agent of hope. I offered encouragement when I saw good effort or progress. I want my teammates and family to like having me around because of my optimistic attitude.

But then I listened to Admiral John Mustin speak about leadership. He noted that encouragement included inspiration and accountability.

According to Mustin, leaders always look for potential and capability in others and endeavor to bring it to the surface. They use the tools of encouragement to keep others going. To try again. To work harder. To believe in the goal. To strive for more. To achieve what they didn’t believe was possible.

My son-in-law and daughter are teaching their three-year-old to swim. He’s been timid. Not sure he can. Not sure he wants to do so. He doesn’t like to get his head wet. He fears the sharks that he is certain are in the ocean.

But they know he can. They know he will be glad he can swim. They know the joys of the water outweigh the fears.

They are positive. But insistent. Intent on helping him discover things he doesn’t know.

Encouragement isn’t just having a positive attitude. It inspires growth and achievement – the uncovering of potential.