Positive Leadership Strategies

Looking for ways to increase employee engagement? Learn more about the science and application of positive leadership.

Photo: Heidi Sandstrom

In my last blog post I defined positive leadership as going beyond typical prescriptions for leadership by providing strategies and practices that enable exceptional levels of performance not normally seen in organisations. Further, wellbeing—not just performance—is a key indicator of success.

Kim Cameron’s positive leadership framework is comprised of four strategies and five practices. In this post, I’m going to focus on the strategies: positive climate, positive relationships, positive communication and positive meaning.

Positive Climate

Positivity predominates over negativity in organisations that have a positive climate. When faced with challenges, setbacks and failure people tend to have a growth rather than a fixed mindset. They are also more likely to focus on what is working well and ask questions that encourage more positive growth. This in turn enables higher levels of performance, engagement and wellbeing.

Leaders play a significant role in influencing organisational climate and whether people stay or go. Negative emotions tend to narrow attention and thinking whereas positive emotions broaden people’s thoughts and actions. Positive leaders resist the temptation to focus on problems and instead enable others to experience more positive emotions and leverage their strengths to continuously improve.

In order to build a positive climate Cameron suggests introducing activities that foster compassion, forgiveness and gratitude.

Photo: Aziz Acharki

“Leadership is a way of thinking, a way of acting and, most importantly, a way of communicating.”

— Simon Sinek

Positive Relationships

Like other relationships, work relationships reflect the full spectrum of quality. At their best, they can be a generative source of enrichment, vitality, and learning that helps individuals, groups, and organizations grow, thrive, and flourish. At their worst, they can be a toxic and corrosive source of pain, depletion, and dysfunction. (Ragins & Dutton, 2007, p.3)

Put simply, interactions at work can light you up or suck the life out of you. Unfortunately, all too often we experience the latter which can leave us feeling deflated and disengaged. Thus, enabling positive relationships is critical to both performance and wellbeing. This can be achieved through a wide variety of activities. However, a good place to start is by creating a network of positive energisers and strengths-based leadership.

Photo: NASA

Positive Communication

Positive communication involves exchanging information in a way that is encouraging and supportive. It seeks to replace negative and critical language that can undermine performance and wellbeing.

The benefits of positive communication are highlighted in a 2004 study involving the communication patterns of 60 management teams. Results indicated a significant difference in the positivity ratio (i.e., positive to negative statements). High performing teams had a ratio of 5.6 to 1. In contrast, low performing teams had a ratio of 0.36 to 1. Other differences included being more curious, focusing on others and higher connectivity.

Leaders can enable positive communication by increasing their positivity ratio, using reflected best-self exercises and providing constructive feedback that encourages positive change.

Positive Meaning

Research has shown that people derive positive meaning from work in different ways. Those that pursue work as a calling are intrinsically motivated by and passionate about their work, which increases job satisfaction and performance. Conversely, when work is just a way to make money or is a daily grind then it will likely result in disengagement.

Leaders can create positive meaning by supporting job crafting, helping followers to align personal and organisational values, and creating opportunities to do work that benefits others .

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

— George Bernard Shaw

Also from Positive Legacies:

Positive Leadership Defined

Best Friends for Life

The Science of Wellbeing

Originally published at positivelegacies.com.au

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