What is positive leadership?
In this episode, I’m exploring what positive leadership entails, positive psychology, how they connect to focus on your team’s strengths and why you should look at using this leadership method in your workplace every day.
There’s a very common myth that leaders are born – you either have ‘it’ or you don’t. But leaders are not born – they’re trained. I’ve seen people becoming leaders across all types of businesses because they’re good at their job but aren’t given the leadership tools they need to thrive.
There’s a better way. Positive leadership creates leaders who are clear on the goals, have good relationships with their team and inspire them to grow. I’ll explore how this method of leadership leads to less stress, better health, better working relationships and more effectiveness in their role.
I’ll run you through positive psychology to give you the foundation in positive leadership so you can thoroughly understand how this method came into practice and how you can apply it to motivate your team.
I encourage you to reflect on your own leadership strategy and start looking at where you can implement positive leadership to build a team that is inspired, loves coming to work and feels fulfilled in their roles every day.
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Welcome to Episode One. This first episode is dedicated to the topic of Positive Leadership. What is Positive Leadership? Let me tell you. First of all, it’s important to know that there is a myth in the industry and the myth is that leaders are born. You either have it, or you don’t. There’s a myth that because you’re great at your job, that that means you’re well positioned to then lead a team of people who do what you do.
The truth? Leaders are not born, they’re trained. As an ex corporate executive, I’ve seen it from the inside. As a leadership and executive coach, I’ve seen it from the outside. In all types of businesses across the globe.
People are given the responsibility to lead without the tools and support. So, what do you do? You lead the only way, you know how: Tell people what to do, get disappointed it’s not done to your standard, and then do the work yourself. Or maybe you avoid delegating in the first place (it’s just too hard!) or accept poor performance so you don’t have to have that conversation.
In the process, you second, guess yourself and lose confidence in your abilities. Hey, remember what it felt like to be the best and have all the answers? Now you’re the leader and nothing feels comfortable. It’s all new.
I can tell you, there is a better way. It’s not the dictatorial leader or the wishy-washy later. Is the leader who’s clear on the goal has good relationships with their team and who inspires them to grow. You become the leader people want to work for. You become known as the person with low staff turnover. You engage your team and you reach the goals together. It’s called Positive Leadership.
Research shows that constructive positive leaders are 37% less stressed, have 26% of better health and wellbeing, they have 43% better working relationships, uh, 47% greater readiness for promotion or extension, and a 34% more effective at their role. Sounds like a magic formula. So what exactly is Positive Leadership?
Well first, let’s start with understanding what Positive Psychology is.
Traditional psychology has historically focused on the disease model or mental illness approach to psychology. Which focuses on identifying what’s wrong with people in order to fix them. So, if you imagine the line you’ve got sort of neutral in the middle and going from neutral to left. To mentally unwell. So the traditional psychology approach is working at what’s wrong, what’s taking you from that middle spot to the left of the line.
And then fixing you to bring back to this neutral spot. Positive Psychology actually extends the line from the neutral spot to the right. It looks from taking you from neutral to flourishing. So on the left, we’ve got languishing in the middle is neutral on the right is flourishing.
Positive Psychology is the study of what makes life worth living. Now the person who popularized Positive Psychology is Martin Seligman. And the story goes, that the positive psychology movement popped into Martin Seligman’s head soon after his election, as president of the American Psychological Organization.
He was weeding the garden with his five-year-old daughter, Nikki. And he seemed to be in a tearing hurry and was rapidly beginning to lose patience while his daughter merrily kept throwing weeds into the air and dancing around. You can just imagine that can’t you. Finally, he yelled at her.
She walked away only to return and say, “Daddy, I want to talk to you. Do you remember before my fifth birthday?” She asked. “From the time I was three to the time I was five. I was a whiner. I whined every day. When I turned five, I decided not to whine anymore. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And if I can stop whining, you can stop being a grouch”.
Now what’s interesting about this story is it shows that how we view things is not fixed. His daughter could change her behavior. Genetics shape our mood and personality, but only in part. Human beings can change and improve. So Positive Psychology is the study of what makes life worth living. It focuses on both individual and societal wellbeing.
It builds on the humanistic movement by Abraham Maslow, you might be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Rolo May and Carl Rogers, which encourages an emphasis on happiness, wellbeing, and positivity. Which creates a foundation of what is now known as Positive Psychology. So how does this connect to Positive Leadership?
Positive leadership is Positive Psychology applied to leadership. Positive Leadership is not about fake positivity or overlooking lackluster performance. Rather it encourages managers to play on people’s strengths and create an environment where a team members find meaning in their work. This is the opposite of the conventional approach homing in on employee’s weaknesses or areas for growth.
If you remember earlier, I talked about this line where on the left, we had languishing and then neutral in the middle and flourishing on the right. If you’re focusing just on what’s wrong with your team, you find that your team think that’s what matters to you. And you’re focusing just on this languishing, the left side.
If you look at the right side, the flourishing side, while you focus on people’s strengths, it helps reinforce what is important in the positive, in the Positive Leadership. Now the difference between Positive and Negative Leadership is fairly simple. Once you strip away all the technical terms and academic language.
I am definitely on the academic side of my understanding of this, I have a master’s degree in Positive Leadership and Strategy. But the really important thing about this is that it is very accessible because positive psychology and positive leadership is something that we can apply every day at work and outside of work.
And have positive impacts. Very similar to the statistics I mentioned prior. So the difference between positive and negative leadership. Positive leadership encourages, empowers and energizes people when negative leadership drains them, discourages them and demoralizes them.
I’m sure you can think of a time when you worked with someone where you felt drained, where you felt discouraged or demoralized, and hopefully you’ve also had somebody that you’ve felt energized by that you felt empowered by. Which is more on the Positive Leadership side.
So at the very basic level, you can determine whether a leadership behavior is positive or negative or neutral by asking yourself these questions.
1. Does it encourage or discourage followers? 2. Does it empower or demoralized followers? And 3. Does it energize or drain followers? If the answer is the first one, encourage empower energize. It’s likely a behavior that fits in with Positive Leadership. If the answer is the second one that discouraged demoralize drain, it’s probably a negative leadership behavior.
Now. Why should you care? Let me tell you the research evidence is compelling. Applying Positive Leadership makes a difference in productivity, satisfaction, and happiness at work. It also makes it easier to trust and become safer and open up to change.
Having traits of Positive Leadership means you can create a better work environment, people are interested, engaged, and you become the leader people want to work with. These traits also extend past the workplace. Leadership is defined as your ability to influence others. Positive Leadership is influencing in a way that results in higher satisfaction and wellbeing. This means we are all leaders and you, my friend listening to this podcast are in the right place because Positive Leadership is not just something that happens at work. It becomes part of who you are and it applies in all situations.
So I hope. Episode 1 has piqued your curiosity. And that you understand a little bit more about what Positive Leadership is. How to be able to identify it, and in future episodes, we’re going to be talking about what particular traits are part of it and how you can include it in part of your everyday as a leader and in life.
So you can jump in straight now to episode two for more bite-sized leadership lessons to Level Up your Leadership.
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