First came the acquisition of the beloved and trendy Virgin America by Alaska Airlines late last year. Then, the ultimate death of Virgin America three months later -- an announcement that its entire ultra-cool brand would officially be eliminated.

That's when its billionaire founder, Richard Branson, went to work to put on display one exceptional leadership trait loyal Virgin America employees most needed in a time of grief and sorrow. The one trait that's so rare to find?

The ability to praise.

Here's an excerpt from Branson's very real farewell letter to Virgin America employees:

We went through a lot together. And you were worth every minute, every penny (there were many!), every battle. We earned every loyal guest and fan. Every market was was a long and hard journey but in the end you are the best consumer airline in America.

You proved it is possible to run a business with a strategy that does not rely on low fares and a dominant position alone: you attracted premium flyers with a fun and beautiful guest proved that it is possible to create a business with a terrific culture and a brand that people love.

Imagine the impact on employees when their hard work is publicly recognized by its most iconic figure. Now, imagine the impact this trait would have for organizations everywhere, whether you're a startup of five or corporate giant of 5,000.

So often, the people in the trenches doing the work to elevate companies aren't even registered as blips on the radar screen when it comes to praise and recognition.

Business case for praise.

That is unfortunate because in Gallup research involving four million workers across more than 30 industries, companies with the highest employee engagement levels use recognition and praise as powerful motivators.

They found that employees who receive it on a regular basis -- once per week, in fact -- increase their individual productivity, receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers, and are more likely to stay with their organization.

The emotional currency of praise positively affects morale and, when delivered in a way that rewards specific and measurable behavior, engages people on a heart level. And when you capture the heart, you've won over the employee.

This is, by far, one of the lowest-cost, highest-impact ways to connect with and motivate your employees and show them that you truly care.