The practice of Positive Leadership is the answer to engagement and productivity problems at work. But what exactly is Positive Leadership?
Positive Leadership is based on the principles of Positive Psychology.
Now stick with me…I realize psychology has a reputation for studying dysfunction – describing everything that can go wrong with the human mind.
The Birth of Positive Psychology
It is true that for the first 100 years, the field focused most of its efforts on psychological problems. Those efforts resulted in great strides being made in understanding and treating psychological disorders. But one consequence of this focus on psychological problems was that the field had little to say about happiness or excellence.
In fact, before the turn of the century, there was a 17-1 negative-to-positive ratio of research in the field of psychology. That means that for every 1 study about happiness or excellence, there were 17 studies on depression and disorder. This is very telling. As a society, we know very well how to be miserable, but so little about how to thrive!
It is not healthy nor scientifically responsible to only study the negative half of human experience. In 1998, Martin Seligman, then president of the American Psychological Association, announced that it was time to shift the traditional approach to psychology and start focusing on the positive side of the curve. He said that we needed to study what works, not just what is broken. As a result, the field of “positive psychology” was born.
Positive Psychology corrects the previous imbalance by focusing on the best things in life instead of repairing the worst. This is the science of excellence. This new branch of psychology studies positive emotions, character strengths, ethical behavior, energizing relationships, and healthy organizations. It is a science that seeks to understand how individuals and organizations can “thrive” at work.
Studying How to Thrive
Thriving is literally a feeling of energy and excitement – a spark. And besides the productivity that generates, it also results in less stress, burnout, missed work days, and turnover. When people are thriving at work, they report higher job satisfaction, engagement, and organizational commitment. They are also more innovative, creative, and collaborative.
But what’s really surprising is that so few people know about this research!
Positive leadership is not the most common form of leadership. In fact, it represents a deviation from the norm.
What 99% of Your Colleagues Don’t Know
In the last decade, more than 10,000 new studies have been released on the growing positive psychology movement. But despite the explosion of research in positive psychology, its ground-breaking findings are still mostly a secret.
Did you know that the average academic journal article is read by only 7 people? This is an extraordinarily depressing statistic, because I know that number has to include the researcher’s mom. That means we’re down to about 6 people who read these studies.
This is a shame because scientists are making discoveries daily that reveal how the human brain works best and how we can best relate to one another – and yet only 6 people and one proud mom are privy to this information!
The more I work in corporate settings, the more I find that the groundbreaking findings of positive psychology are still largely unknown in the business and professional fields. As a result, they miss an incredible opportunity to get ahead. If a study has proven how CEOs can become 15% more productive, or how leaders can improve engagement by 42%, then I think the people in the trenches should know about it, not just a handful of academics!
In my 20-years’ experience as an educator, consultant, and leadership coach, I have found people almost universally open to learning how to use positive psychology to rethink the way they lead their teams. They want to know how using a positive mindset can gain them a competitive edge, and how they can buffer themselves against the negativity that spreads so rapidly from one cubicle to another today.