When we talk about leadership, many people assume that leadership is always positive. But leadership is about influence and direction. It’s about having the ability to influence and impact others. There is nothing inherent in the term or the practice that necessitates that all displays of leadership are positive. They are not.
Without intention, a leader can create a harmful workplace culture that sets colleagues up to compete with one another, distrust one another and take from one another. Positive leadership then, is not automatic or necessarily synonymous with leadership.
To practice positive leadership, you must make an intentional and conscious decision to do so. Positive leadership is making a mindful decision to lead from a place of integrity and honesty. It is a determination that you will consider the impact of your presence rather than rest on the excuse of intent: ‘I didn’t intend to harm you; therefore, the impact of my actions must be ignored.’
Positive leadership is leading from a place of possibility rather than fear. It is deciding to lead in a way that contributes to society rather than takes from it. It is concern for reciprocity – we will positively impact all with whom we interact and rather than taking, we will give back.
The value of positive leadership on organizations, government, political campaigns and companies can never be understated. While an entity may have a talented collection of employees, without positive leadership, the entity cannot realize its full potential or have maximum impact. Traits of positive leadership include integrity, curiosity, courage, confidence and persistence.
Positive leadership is about being who you say you are, even when no one is looking.
Leaders employing positive leadership have an internal code that governs how they show up, how they interact with others and how they go about achieving organizational or corporate goals.
Positive leadership is synonymous with integrity as to lead effectively, people must trust that you are who you say you are and will do what you say you will do. Rather than pursuing their vision in reckless ways, they are concerned about things such as equity, fairness, privilege, corporate social responsibility and impact.
Personal integrity is not just a feel-good buzz word; it is an ethos than guides every aspect of their work and life. Without it, companies build empires like a stack of cards: eventually it’ll crumble. Integrity is essential for companies and personal brands that want lasting power. A leader can exist for a time period without operating ethically, but in time, leadership that is not accompanied by integrity will be revealed to be a sham.
Think about the scandals and sexual abuse allegations haunting people like Harvey Weinstein. I’m convinced many people around him knew of his reputation and perhaps are not surprised that the abuse allegations eventually came to light. Integrity is like insurance; it helps you sleep better.
Curiosity continually seeks to understand why and what else. It is an endless exploration for information rather than an endless quest for judgment. Problems then, are an opportunity to explore rather than demonize or criticize.
Positive leadership assumes that there is always an explanation behind why people do what they do. Positive leadership suspends judgment and turns to curiosity. When systems fail to operate as expected, the first question positive leadership asks ‘why’ rather than ‘who,’ as in who is responsible.
This isn’t to say that positive leadership suspends accountability in favor of philosophical quests for information. Accountability is always present, but so is questioning. Curiosity is about assuming that the information we receive is surface-level and deeper exploration is almost always warranted.
Positive leadership requires courage. It takes courage to step outside of protocol and courage to introduce a new way of being or doing.
Courage is required when honestly assessing what is and what is working in a corporation, government entity or nonprofit organization. Courage is a prerequisite for giving honest feedback, which in turn, is a prerequisite for professional growth and development.
While the titles CEO, Vice President or Regional Director may be alluring, the day to day responsibilities are anything but. People in these positions are constantly forced to make decisions and calls that will leave others downright angry.
As I wrote in a piece for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, good managers overcome the desire to be liked, because they cannot do their job effectively while being preoccupied with whether the people around them like them at every turn, or throughout every season of the company. The only way to do this is to develop and lead with courage.
Courage allows leaders to decide deemed difficult but will ultimately be considered pivotal to the company’s future success.
Another trait of positive leadership is confidence. Confidence is assurance in one’s skills and abilities, but also in the strength of the product, idea or initiative.
Confidence is being one’s own cheerleader and one’s own ‘Amen’ corner. When leaders possess confidence, they inspire others to tap into their own unique gifts and abilities. When the leader thrives, they convince others that they too can thrive.
In the absence of confidence, employees become distrustful, stakeholders become doubtful and investors become scare. In the presence of confidence, leaders receive grace and space to do that which is in the organization or company’s best interest, and employees and stakeholders become more likely to take risks that may ultimately benefit themselves and the company.
This is key because few people are willing to try things that they do not believe they can master. Confidence is not only inspiring, it is contagious.
Want to be more confident? Here’re 62 Proven Ways to Build Self-Confidence.
Persistence is a critical trait of positive leadership. Persistence enables leaders to continue trying, even in the face of disappointment or failure. Persistence enables employees to believe that success is within reach, and therefore they must keep striving to achieve it.
Since few things happen quickly, persistence is required. Social media may give the illusion that success is an overnight job. It’s not. Many people strive for years, and some decades, to influence change or to achieve career success.
I once provided public relations support for Padres y Jovenes Unidos, a grassroots organization in Denver, Colorado, which worked for a decade to come to an agreement that would clarify the role of police in schools, and limit the involvement of police in school disciplinary matters. After 10 years of working with young people, the school district and local police, Padres reached a monumental agreement with all parties. It took persistence to see their goal become a reality.
To lead positively, you must make a commitment to continue growing and to live with humility. When a person has achieved a certain level of success, it is easy to think that their internal work is complete. But as long as we live, we will be presented with opportunities to develop and grow. We should take those and never cease taking those.
Every situation, every problem and every experience presents an opportunity to refine our leadership and test whether it is positive leadership.
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Featured photo credit: CoWomen via unsplash.com
|||^||The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Why Good Managers Overcome the Desire to Be Liked|