The Power of Positive Leadership — It Beats Yelling!

Positive leadership is based on the field of Positive Psychology.  What is Positive Psychology? 

For the first 100 years, the field of psychology focused its efforts on psychological problems and how to remedy them. Those efforts reaped huge dividends. Great strides were made in understanding and treating psychological disorders.

But one consequence of this focus on psychological problems was that psychology had little to say about how to foster excellence.  Positive Psychology corrects this imbalance by focusing on strengths and building the best things in life instead of repairing the worst.

Positive Psychology shifts the focus from bringing people at -5 to
and instead looks at how to get people from 0 to +5.

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This new branch of psychology studies positive emotions, strengths-based character, ethical behavior, energizing relationships, and healthy organizations.  It is a science that seeks to understand the factors that allow individuals, companies, and communities to flourish.

Positive leadership can bring out the best in people and create exceptional outcomes.  The focus shifts from merely resolving problems, overcoming obstacles, or increasing competitiveness to creating an environment where workers thrive and flourish. 

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In this environment, individuals engage in activities that are aligned with their personal strengths, values and interests.  Leaders foster positive emotions such as optimism, fulfillment, engagement, and satisfaction. Organizations value, appreciate and develop employees to accomplish more than they previously thought possible.

These 4 strategies can enhance positive leadership in your organization:

  • Facilitate positive communication – Affirmative and supportive language replaces negative and critical language.  Research shows that high performing organizations have different communication patterns than low performing ones.  In a recent study, the single most important factor in predicting organizational performance – which was more than twice as powerful as any other factor – was the ratio of positive to negative statements made by team members as they engaged in their work.  In the highest performing teams, that ratio was 5:1.
  • Foster the formation of positive relationships in the organization – Relationships that contribute to the benefit of others, rather than merely take from them, are the most valuable.  Leaders who want to foster positive relationships emphasize strengths, recognize small victories, and use positive imagery with team members as opposed to focusing on errors, mistakes or problematic behaviors. 
  • Encourage a positive climate Positive emotions should predominate over negative emotions in the workplace.  As a leader, you have an extraordinary degree of impact on the climate.  You can significantly impact your organizational culture as you personally display positive emotions, model acts of compassion, and encourage expressions of gratitude. 
  • Associate the work being done with positive meaning – Highlight the value and significance of the organization’s work, beyond the personal benefit of individual employees (beyond their own paycheck).  Reinforce the benefits of your product or service for others, connect your work outcomes with the core values of your employees, and identify the long-term impact created by your work.

Without becoming Pollyannaish, positive leadership emphasizes positive communication, optimism, and strengths.  It does not ignore negative events but builds on them to create positive outcomes.  Negative communication is certainly still present in high-performing organizations, but just not to the extent that it dominates over the positive.

Positive leaders understand how to bring out the best in people and organizations; to uncover potential and bring it to life.  The goal of positive leadership is to create workplaces that foster high satisfaction and high productivity.  Research shows that satisfied employees are more engaged, perform better, and are more committed.  Reduced stress, less absenteeism, and a lower rate of turnover are the result. 

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RELATED:  15 Devastating Leadership Derailers
RELATED:  4 Pillars of Positive Leadership that Promise Results
RELATED:  The Positive Leadership Manifesto

Resource:  Cameron, K. (2008).  Positive Leadership.  San Francisco:  Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

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One Comment

  1. I like that you mentioned being Pollyannaish. I’m naturally positive so naturally have been accused of that demeanor. I’m not really. I am realistic but I believe I get to choose my attitude. I just don’t get to choose my circumstances.

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