A positive leader is a pragmatic leader

3 reasons a positive leader is the most pragmatic person in the room

By Declan Noone, Partner at Serrano 99


‘Happiology’, that’s what crosses the majority of people’s minds when they hear the terms: positive psychology, positive leadership, and mindfulness. In fact, when I first started to study positive leadership I still readily recall the guffaws and dismissive nature of colleagues when I told them what I was doing. Their response was not out of malice but actually arose as a result of institutionalised mind-sets and biases. However, a recent climate survey highlights the pressing need for a new leadership approach to drive solution to the challenges the organisation faces in 2017 and beyond. On this issue the military is not alone, despite research showing that nearly 87% of the global workforce are not engaged, and that happy employees are more productive there is still a clear uneasiness in embracing Positive Leadership as a solution to many of the woes and challenges companies now face.

So what is Positive Leadership? It is the application of Positive Psychology to the human challenges in the workplace. Its purpose is to enable organisations and their leaders to ‘understand behaviour – centring on strengths rather than addressing constraints – and to leverage this understanding to achieve extraordinary results’. In other words, by developing a deep understanding of how people work, and how they achieve extraordinary performance levels, an organisation’s leaders and managers can design new structures and processes which will enable performance levels to be optimised. This form of leadership is human centric at its core.

Now that’s a mouthful, but if you sit still for a moment and ask yourself what are the 3 things you want most from a leader in your organisation. You will probably arrive at: personal performance; team/organisational performance; resilience and adaptability. Those 3 components each directly impact your bottom line. Inefficiency or in effective leadership either compound or exasperate pre-existing problems which generate blockages in work flow, product development and/or service provision.

So, as a pragmatist and a positive leader what are the 3 things you should be doing to drive exceptional personal & organisational performance?

  1. Create the conditions to enable performance: Rather than asking yourself ‘how do I get the maximum out of these people?’, ask yourself ‘how do I set the conditions for optimum performance?’ The environment and culture you establish within your team and/or organisation has a direct impact on the performance level of your people. Research shows that a generative and inclusive work culture has a direct impact on talent retention, and performance levels across the board. If you believe that your people are your greatest asset then create the right conditions for performance, stand back and let them perform.
  1. Ask yourself, What demotivates my people? Very few leaders have the capacity to give a rousing speech like George C. Scott in the opening credits of the movie ‘Patton’ and an even smaller percentage can do it with any great frequency. It is an extremely difficult thing to do, to communicate with such clarity, energy and focus, so as to motivate others to perform to their max. So reframe the challenge, accept that each individual has their own intrinsic motivations which should be driving their performance, and ask ‘what demotivates my people?’. Spend the time examining and analysing what within your team or your organisation ‘drains the spark’. It may be certain practices & processes which are cumbersome, ineffectual and antiquated that impedes performance. It may be social communication skills within a group or a non-generative working environment that is the cause. Find what demotivates, and change it!!
  1. Train as you mean to fight: this military axiom refers to importance of preparing yourself and your people in a way that fits the challenges they will face in their line of work. If you expect your people to be capable of dealing with high volume workloads while maintaining quality and performance levels, then give them the tools to do so. If you don’t, you end up unexpected costs like those estimated to have cost Europe: €272 billion from absenteeism and presenteeism; €242 billion loss of productivity; €63billion of health care costs; and €39 billion in social welfare costs. Give your people the tools and techniques to flourish not just to cope and they will be adaptive and responsive to the changing demands of the marketplace. If you do so, then as my old military units’ motto decreed, they will be ‘Nullus Segundus’, second to none!!

Positive Leadership is the pragmatic approach to leadership as its focused on your greatest asset, your people. Understand what makes them tick, set the right conditions, prepare them for what will be expected, and empower them to take ownership.

In Serrano 99, we work with our clients to: help educate and develop positive leaders; co-create and design new processes and practices that build positive & generative environments and; create a purpose and a strategy that resonates; so that clients create the conditions that enable their people to drive for exceptional personal & organisational performance.

Posted on January 6, 2017 in Insights, Positive Leadership, Positive Psychology, Team efficiency

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