Activating Positive Leadership

In my practice as an executive coach and leadership consultant, I focus on engagement and positive thinking, often encountering skepticism from hard-driving executives with a close eye on the getting things done and the bottom line.

But positivity coaching today is different from when author Norman Vincent Peale preached his positive philosophy of faith and miracles. Today’s positive-psychology movement is founded on empirical evidence. Social scientists have documented the extraordinary benefits of optimism, emotional intelligence and happiness in multiple work settings, including the executive suite and diverse corporate departments.

Positive leadership is no longer seen as a feel-good ideal with little bearing on business results. Mounting evidence reveals that leaders who focus on their people’s positive contributions, while concomitantly achieving tough goals through measurable tasks, enjoy higher performance outcomes.

While positive leadership is gaining traction among CEOs and executive teams, it’s often poorly understood and implemented. University of Michigan management professor Kim S. Cameron, PhD, offers a cogent definition of the term in his new book, Practicing Positive Leadership: Tools and Techniques That Create Extraordinary Results (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2013):

“Positive leadership refers to the implementation of multiple positive practices that help individuals and organizations achieve their highest potential, flourish at work, experience elevating energy and achieve levels of effectiveness difficult to attain otherwise.”

As you’ll soon see, positive leadership is a bit more complex than expressing a positive attitude, celebrating progress, encouraging team spirit, fostering positive relationships and espousing inspirational values.

The key is honest communications that support people to bring out the best in people while not ignoring realities. Often there’s too much emphasis on what people do wrong, or need to improve and not enough recognition on progress.

I’m curious as to what you experience at work. Do your leaders and managers focus on positive progress or on negative gaps? Which is more prevalent in your workplace? I’d love to hear from you; just leave a comment.

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