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Leaders – Think and Act Positively

Here are three examples and philosophies about how a leader approaches life and work that can have a tremendous impact on the success of their team.

The Power of Gratitude

There was once a woman who made a courageous choice. She chose to react positively in the world. There were three steps to what she did:

Step one:

She made a list before going out in the morning of what she was grateful for. For example, she had a good job that she enjoyed. So on a workday, that was at the top of her list.

Step two:

She looked in the mirror and chose one aspect of herself to praise.  One day she praised her smile. Another day she praised her energy. And so on.

Step three:

On her way to work, she consciously greeted people she saw with a smile and a “Good morning”.

The first few days, some people looked at her a little puzzled, others responded positively and one person just growled. At work, there was one person who had always seemed grumpy but she went out of her way to say “good morning” and to not be put off by his manner.

Over the weeks, she felt more and more able to maintain her positive attitude and to be grateful for things in her life. This gratitude carried over into her work and because she was now more conscious of the good things about her team, she made a point of telling them how much she appreciated them.

The more she felt good about herself, the more she acted with kindness to others around her, the more others responded in a like manner.  Soon her whole team displayed a feeling of lightness, where before it had been a bit gloomy. And while her team still had some tough challenges to overcome, a dour manner in their leader wasn’t one of them. This is the power of gratitude.

The Power of Positive Psychology:

The second example is about how the power of gratitude is connected to the power of positive psychology. Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., is on the vanguard of the Positive Psychology movement. Fredrickson, a research psychologist at the University of Michigan, specializes in the study of positive emotions and developed the “broaden-and-build” theory.

Fredrickson suggests that positive emotions seem to broaden people’s repertoires of things they like to pursue. They broaden ways of thinking beyond our regular baseline, and they accumulate. Broadening, she says, allows people to discover and learn new things. Telling people they do good work is a way to unlock their bold dreams about what they could strive for next. And it is the key to helping people believe that they can be more successful which becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

As a leader, then, it is important to find ways to broaden people’s thinking about what is possible and what they can accomplish. They will work harder toward these dreams than if all they hear is criticism. So this is the power of positive psychology.

The Power of Teams Acknowledging the Positive

Finally, there is third connection that I would like to make. Some leaders begin their meetings with a “check-in” that asks people to go around the room and share what they are most proud of since the last meeting. This builds positive energy that allows the participants to be more confident in their decision-making, which leads to more and more success.

This doesn’t mean that leaders should ignore their team’s challenges but it does mean that the team has more energy to tackle those challenges. And it starts with the leader. This is not something you can do with your team while not embracing it yourself. This is where you definitely need to lead by example.  Questions that leaders can use to tap into these positive results include:

  • What are you most proud of in any area of your life since the last time we were together?
  • What are you most grateful for?
  • If you were to look in the mirror and say what you liked the most about you, what would it be today?
  • Thinking of each of your team members, what do you appreciate about them?


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