Positive Position: What Does it Take to be a Positive Leader?

Buckle up and get ready to wrap your mind around what it takes to be a positive leader!

We’re moving at warp speed and pulling out all the stops to help you reach your positive leadership destination.

Today you will discover:

  • What a positive leader is, by definition.
  • The practices a positive leader engages in to create a positive organization that is flourishing and producing extraordinary results.
  • How YOU can be a positive leader who gets top results by fostering more productivity and performance in your teams.

What is a Positive Leader?

Let’s begin by eliminating misconceptions. A positive leader is not someone who smiles all the time and is so optimistic and hopeful they are blind to reality.

A positive leader focuses on achieving excellence and exercises a bias towards what is good.

Focus on Excellence

Prominent researchers in positive leadership Jane Dutton and Gretchen Spreitzer from the University of Michigan found that positive leaders BELIEVE that implementing a series of small actions over time expands the capability and degree of excellence in their organization. You can learn more about this in their book, How to be a Positive Leader: Insights from Leading Thinkers on Positive Organizations.

But for now, let’s just focus on something really big here. Did you catch it?

It’s that positive leaders are not born, they simply make a choice to engage in small actions that have been proven over time and across industries to increase employee productivity, engagement, creativity and resilience, and elevate financial performance.

That means YOU can make the choice to become positive leader today.

Bias Towards Good

Positive leaders look for what is going well in an organization and use a strengths-based approach to employee development.

Instead of following our primal genetic default to focusing on the negative, positive leaders focus on what is good. Now, this doesn’t mean positive leaders ignore weaknesses. It means they focus more time on strengths and how to amplify what is going well. Positive leaders retrain their brain to   spot what is good and build on existing strengths and competencies.

Small Actions

Are you wondering what small actions you can take as a positive leader to create a positive organization that is flourishing and producing extraordinary results?

I’m so glad you asked!

According to Kim Cameron, a respected positive leadership researcher, there are three crucial elements to creating a positive organizational climate: practicing gratitude, compassion and forgiveness.


You can review the gratitude practices we covered in my second blog. Link to second blog.                     

But, just to recap, a daily gratitude practice has two important functions.

  1. It trains your brain to look for the positive, what’s going well, and what opportunities exist that can be built upon.
  2. The people in your organization start to feel more appreciated and valued which, in turn, skyrockets performance.

Small Gratitude Actions

  • Write five thank-you cards to people in your organization each day. This will make you feel better and it creates a positive ripple effect throughout your organization.
  • Have you and all your employees start a gratitude journal where people openly thank their teammates in front of each other. Again, the ripple effect is profound.


Compassion can transform your organization from somewhere people work for a paycheck to a place employees want to work because they’re committed to the cause, loyal to the brand, and shout its praises from the rooftops.

A classic example comes from Southwest Airlines. The company refused to furlough a single employee despite debilitating revenue losses of $5 million a day for weeks after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

If you’re thinking that’s huge, I can’t do something like that with my organization! I hear you, and I’ve got you covered below.

Small Compassion Actions

  • Collective Noticing is tasking employees to vigilantly look out for each other and alert leaders when someone needs help.
  • Collective Feeling is realized when employees are asked to briefly share how they are feeling about their work, tasks, and well-being at the beginning of meetings. This allows employees to feel connected and be seen, heard, and understood.
  • Collective Responding can manifest in a myriad of ways such as recognizing acts of compassion with public awards, newsletter articles, and allowing employees to donate paid time off and personal days to colleagues in need.

One final point on compassion, in case you are confusing it for some gooey, soft, woo-woo idea, here are some hard facts:

  • Employees are human.
  • Humans deal with all kinds of hardships.
  • They bring grief from hardships with them to work.
  • This costs organizations more than $75 BILLION annually.

When you take the time recognize and compassionately help employees to deal with life’s challenges you make employees feel safe and valued and they will, in turn, reward you with loyalty and commitment.


Research shows that exercising forgiveness can bring extraordinary results in the face of very difficult circumstances, such as downsizing.

5 Elements to Forgiveness

These elements are based on multiple studies compiled by prominent positive leadership researcher, Kim Cameron. You can read more about them in his excellent book, Positive Leadership: Strategies for Extraordinary Performance

  1. Acknowledge what happened and the trauma that ensued, then define it as an opportunity to move forward.
  2. Identify a purpose for employees by associating products or services with personal values to help replace feelings of victimization with purpose and fulfillment.
  3. Set and keep standards high by communicating that forgiveness does not excuse subpar performance or mistakes, rather it allows those involved to move on without dwelling on the negative.
  4. Provide social support for all involved to ensure they feel humanized instead of victimized or alienated to help them move forward.
  5. Watch your language and incorporate such words as compassion, humility, and love into the organization’s lexicon to model a natural expression of forgiveness.

I hope you enjoyed today’s journey on the road to positive leadership. If you want a deeper discussion on this topic, check out my podcast episode, What Does it Take to be a Positive Leader?

CAUTION: Please do NOT hit the road running with all three practices we discussed today. Pick one and focus on it as you merge into the positive leadership lane.

Keep your eyes on the road ahead as we pick up the practice of focusing on good and taking a strengths-based approach in the next Positive Leadership Movement blog.

Fast forward your positive leaderships questions to me at [email protected] and I’ll answer in a future blog.

You May Also Like…


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How to Leverage the Science of Happiness to Increase Performance, Productivity, and Profitability

Claim Your Free Book Now! 

Thank you!