our world group

Positive Leadership

by Maria Katsarou, Managing Partner, Our World Group

neuroMost psychology studies in the past focused mainly on the negative sides of life, i.e. anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and various disorders. Positive Psychology, which has its roots in the work of William James in the late 19th century, and the humanistic psychology in the mid-20th century, as well as in the work of ancient philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato, redressed this imbalance by focusing on what goes right, instead of what goes wrong.

Martin Selingman, one of the founding fathers of positive psychology proposed a framework called PERMA, which consists of five separate elements:
1. Positive emotions: experience of positive mood and feelings which are uplifting
2. Engagement: well-being you get from being totally absorbed in the task in hand, so much that you lose track of time and feel completely at one with what you are doing (‘flow).
3. Relationships: good, caring and supportive interpersonal connections are essential to your well-being.
4. Meaning: sense of direction in life.
5. Accomplishment: includes achievement, success and mastery at the highest level possible to progress towards goals and competence.

Positive Leadership has borrowed from the above concept emphasizing what goes right in an organization (in addition to what goes wrong), what elevates individuals (in addition to what challenges
them), what is life-giving (in addition to what is problematic), and what is inspiring (in addition to what is difficult). The principles of positive leadership seem almost trivial, yet most organizations are challenged with their application.

1. Positive Climate: Demonstrating compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude produce a positive climate, people demonstrate significantly higher performance at work when a positive climate exists
and organizational performance tends to flourish in the presence of this kind of environment.
2. Positive Relationships: The answer on this one lies in biology. When people experience positive relationships with others, oxytocin is released in the body leading to lower blood pressure
and heart rate and an enhanced ability to handle stress calmly.
3. Positive Communication: Organizations need to use supportive strategies – especially when critical or corrective messages must be delivered – and provide feedback on strengths, unique contributions, and best-self demonstrations. The communication patterns of leaders are a powerful factor in enabling positively deviant performance to emerge.
4. Positive Meaning: Leaders that enable meaningfulness in work are interested in highlighting the value associated with the organization’s outcomes, which extends beyond the personal benefit of
individual employees.