Talent Tips: Positive Leadership: Being and Doing

Learning the strategies for getting extraordinary performance starts from the inside out.

By Roy Saunderson

As a child I loved going to the library and discovering new books that challenged my thinking. One book that stood out for me was “The Power of Positive Thinking” by the late Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. While it has a religious foundation to the principles highlighted in the book, it was the introduction for me to thinking more positively about my life and especially my work.

Now, in my working life, I have gained greater insights from social scientists in the study of positive psychology such as Dr. Martin Seligman and his ground-breaking work on “learned optimism,” and more recently on happiness and well-being; Dr. Barbara Frederickson and her classic research on “positivity” and just this year on the science behind “Love 2.0”; and Dr. Kim Cameron and his powerful focus on the subject of “positive leadership.”

Dr. Cameron points out in his book, “Positive Leadership: Strategies for Extraordinary Performance,” that leaders must not only lead individually with vision, they also must create a positive workplace environment. This goes beyond just a few people doing the right things for the right reasons; it involves everyone within an organization collectively performing positive practices that naturally have an impact on both people and business results.

The chain of reaction and results from Dr. Cameron’s research suggests a linear linkage, namely: Positive Practices at Work > Positive Effect > Positive Individual Behavior > Organizational Effectiveness.

What must a leader do to achieve positive practices that produce high levels of organizational effectiveness? What does it take to be a positive leader?

Standing on Positive Higher Ground

We probably have known someone who is genuinely happy and positive and have seen people around them mirroring these qualities. Similarly, we’ve been around grumpy people and the dark cloud that seems to follow them and rain on everyone’s parade. The emotions of others have been proven to affect people’s thinking and decision-making skills, along with interpersonal relationships within an organization.

Leaders must learn to dig deep within and be brutally honest with themselves in what they believe and what they stand for. It requires humility and transparency to acknowledge one’s strengths, as well as one’s weaknesses. Armed with this introspection, they must lead out with living positive practices for the right reasons of, what Dr. Cameron calls, virtuousness or an abundance culture.

When people know where a leader truly stands, they can more openly and willingly choose to follow them and be prepared to positively act. Leaders can only bring people up if they are standing on higher ground first.

Taking Positive Steps Every Day

Leaders must lead out with an attitude of gratitude and a deep desire to emulate the right actions every day. Positive leaders focus on the strengths of others to move people forward and help build upon any negative realities that come along in life. They enlist everyone’s support and passion for the job at hand because they put greater meaning into what everyone is doing. There is never a mundane or ordinary task to these leaders. Any job position is a positive and contributing experience when you look for the core purpose within it.

Everyone can be a positive leader. All we need to do is treat fellow employees as friends, and demonstrate genuine passion and concern for each person’s well-being and that of their family or significant others. Friends always work harder for other friends.

We must demonstrate respect for each individual regardless of their title or position in life. This becomes foundational for showing the care and appreciation people desire to receive. When you respect a person, you are kind to them. Respect garners respect, and then a reciprocity of positive actions flows.

Lifting People Up

Dr. Cameron’s research does not identify one specific positive practice that influences performance more than another. Rather, it appears to be the sum of the collective whole, of the total positive climate and multiple actions that makes the most difference.

Positive actions include compassionate support for employees all the time; honoring people for their contributions at work and providing authentic recognition in acknowledging them; learning from one another and especially when people make mistakes; and finding a higher meaning and purpose behind every employee’s role. These, and many other positive practices, assist leaders in motivating and lifting their people up.

No manipulation or carrots or sticks are required. All it takes is authentic positive practices that influence the good in all of us.

Each of us can learn positive leadership by looking beyond ourselves and finding the good in others while serving them.

Roy Saunderson is author of “GIVING the Real Recognition Way” and Chief Learning Officer of Rideau’s Recognition Management Institute, a consulting and training firm specializing in helping companies “get recognition right.” Its focus is on showing leaders how to give real recognition to create positive relationships, better workplaces, and real results. For more information, contact RoySaunderson@Rideau.com or visit http://www.Rideau.com.

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.