What Is Positive Leadership?

A quick internet search on the topic of leadership can leave you feeling overwhelmed by the diversity of leadership theories and models. So what makes positive leadership stand out?

Kim Cameron suggests that positive leadership goes beyond typical prescriptions for leadership by providing strategies and practices that enable exceptional levels of performance not normally seen in organisations. Further, wellbeing—not just performance—is a key indicator of success. Several positive forms of leadership have been proposed, including Cameron’s.

Transformational leadership was introduced by James MacGregor Burns in 1978 and later developed by Bernard Bass in 1985. This model is well established and consists of four components: idealised influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation and individualised consideration.

Authentic leadership emerged in 2003 and focuses on self-awareness, self-regulation, positive psychological capital (hope, efficacy, resilience, and optimism) and the moderating role of a positive organisational climate.

Photo: Randy Fath

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ ”

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

Why Be a Positive Leader?

Most leaders tend to focus on deficit rather than abundance gaps. In other words they look at what needs fixing rather than what is working well. If you work in manufacturing then you’ll probably be very familiar with the myriad of problem solving methodologies. Although, this deficit-based thinking is not limited to the manufacturing sector.

Now just to be clear I’m not suggesting leaders should ignore problems or concerns. Instead, positive leadership provides a framework to overcome challenges, setbacks and failure in a way that allows people to thrive and achieve extraordinary outcomes.

There is now a considerable amount of research that shows strengths-based leadership leads to significant increases in engagement and productivity. Leaders who capitalise on strengths and approach problem solving from a base of what is working well can increase positivity. This in turn broadens peoples thoughts and actions. Conversely, focusing on negative events narrows attention and thinking.

Photo: Rawpixel

How Can You Implement Positive Leadership?

Cameron’s positive leadership framework is comprised of four strategies and five practices. In my next two blog posts I’m going to explore these positive leadership strategies and practices in more detail. In the meantime, here is a quick overview.

Positive Leadership Strategies

  1. Positive climate
  2. Positive relationships
  3. Positive communication
  4. Positive meaning

The implementation of these positive leadership strategies is supported by the following practices.

Positive Leadership Practices

  1. Create a culture of abundance
  2. Develop positive energy networks
  3. Deliver negative feedback positively
  4. Establish and achieve Everest goals
  5. Apply positive leadership in organisations

“Leadership is a choice, not a position.”

— Stephen Covey

Also from Positive Legacies:

Best Friends for Life

The Science of Wellbeing

Grit: Developing Practice and Hope

Originally published at positivelegacies.com.au


  • Sarah Schimschal

    Founder and Director at Positive Legacies

    Sarah is an accomplished leader, coach and researcher with over 20 years’ experience working across different industries including education, manufacturing, retail, hospitality and recreation. Sarah is passionate about helping people to thrive by uncovering new energising pathways to reach personal and professional fulfilment. Sarah holds a BA in Training and Development, MSc in Applied Positive Psychology and is currently undertaking her PhD. Her research is focused on developing grit and related positive psychological constructs.