An introduction to the Theory of Positive Leadership:
Organizations led by powerful, dynamic leaders—individuals who believe in strong positive values and who are committed to infusing their organizations with those values—will have unparalleled success.
Positive leaders sell their people on their organization’s vision and mission and they talk relentlessly about the values that drive their organizations. These men and women teach their people those values, they walk the floor with them when it is necessary, and they drag them screaming and hollering down the alley when that is necessary. What powerful positive leaders do not do is sit back and complain or wait for something to happen.
Positive leaders are proactive. They do all the other things that managers and supervisors do: they plan, organize, set objectives, establish controls, and evaluate outcomes and they do these things well. What distinguishes positive leaders from men and women who simply manage, however, is their commitment to personal involvement and positive action. Positive leaders make things happen.
Positive leadership is a special kind of leadership that brings out the best of an organization and its people; ensures that its objectives are the right objectives; and that the entity’s resources are cultivated to their optimum level. A positive leader will possess the following attributes or distinguishing characteristics:
- A healthy self-esteem
- An understanding of the essence of success
- An understanding of organizational dynamics and an intimate knowledge of his or her own organization including its potential, its strengths and its weaknesses
- An unqualified commitment to a system of positive values and also a commitment to action
- A broad-based understanding of the needs of people in the work place, specifically concerning those things that foster motivation.
A healthy self-esteem is vital because one cannot lead unless one believes in one’s self. In fact, the leadership role requires that men and women put their egos on the line every single day. The leader who lacks a strong, healthy self-esteem will spend the majority of his or her time and energy on personal needs rather than on the needs of the enterprise and its people. The needs of positive leaders are met through the satisfaction of seeing their people and organization succeed.
Positive leaders must also understand that success is a process, not a destination. The process of success is something that any human being can master. It requires a focus on purpose and a recognition that in the dynamic world in which we live that both people and organizations must make continuous adjustments. Success also requires that we establish clear objectives and expectations and that we implement a process whereby our performance against those objectives and expectations are measured. It is during this process that positive leaders learn from both their successes and from their mistakes and setbacks. They recognize that mistakes and setbacks are inevitable and, rather than being something that we avoid at all cost, positive leaders embrace mistakes and other challenges as the true learning opportunities they represent. Positive leaders know that mistakes contribute to rather than diminish success and that if one is not making mistakes it only means that one is not extending themselves. Success is attained when one converts dreams to objectives, to plans, and to action. Without action, even the ideas of an Einstein create no value. Success is achieved when the process becomes ingrained and when leaders are committed to positive action. As we will note below, action is one of the most important things to which positive leaders are committed.
In modern society, everything we do occurs within the context of a group or an organization. Positive leaders understand organizational dynamics at the macro level and, at the micro level, they strive to know everything there is to know about their own organization, its mission, its vision, its values, its customers and suppliers, its products and services, its strengths and weaknesses, and its people.
Positive leaders possess a high level of commitment to a system of values that guides them personally and that powers their organizations, one of the most important of which is customer satisfaction. While it is imperative that leaders talk about the values of their organizations with relentless passion, words are only a lubricant. Values are conveyed most effectively through the actions of the organization and its leaders because, in the end, people will remember what we do far longer than they will remember what we say. For that reason, positive leaders must be committed to both values and action.
People are the most important resource for any organization and positive leaders understand the needs of their people and they know how to ignite the internal motivation of the people on whom the organizations rely. They do this by making people feel important.
Often, organizations elevate people to leadership roles on the basis of their technical competency rather than on demonstrated leadership accomplishment. The frequent and unfortunate result of such decisions is that the organization exchanges one of its most productive technical performers for a mediocre manager or supervisor. This unfortunate outcome could be ameliorated if the organization would make an appropriate investment in the development of the leadership skills of its people but, remarkably and inexplicably, such investments are the exception rather than the norm.
Inevitably, without ongoing leadership development, the new manager/supervisor will become discouraged and disillusioned with their new role and that leads to diminished enthusiasm. Nothing contributes to the deflation of an organization’s morale more quickly than the diminished enthusiasm of discouraged and disillusioned leaders.
Leadership is an art form that flows from the creative resources of talented men and women who practice their craft, daily. Unless talent is nurtured and exercised, it will wither and die. How effectively does your organization identify new leaders and nurture the development of their talent?
If you sometimes find yourself frustrated that your organization rarely seems to be functioning at its optimal potential, maybe you should re-evaluate your commitment to the development of your own leadership abilities as well as those of your leadership team. Time after time, the difference is leadership.
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