An organization’s health is only as sound as its leader’s decisions. Some companies prosper from wise leadership directions, while others struggle after flawed choices—the kind that receive extra publicity because of the adverse impact on their organizations, people and communities.
Leaders who convert critiques into improvements develop the strongest followings and have the fewest fears. They not only welcome feedback, but they request it. They view constructive feedback as free self-development lessons.
Self-confident leaders have a support network of solid relationships, which helps reduce fears and fosters unity. Trusted and respected friends can offer critiques without causing offense. We know our friends won’t discard us, which diminishes any fears of rejection. Building relationships with colleagues and subordinates similarly helps you grow and improve.
A lack of self-confidence causes leaders to second-guess themselves and doubt their own abilities. This stifles progress, and the entire organization perceives what’s happening. Unconfident leaders cause staff to lose trust and hope. Everything tumbles downhill from there.
Fearful leaders often cannot deal with difficult issues or conversations, so moderate troubles balloon into true crises. They also resist taking the risks necessary to move their companies forward. Fears can take many forms: discomfort, incapacity, negative feelings, failure and self-criticism. Each carries numerous side effects, most rooted in a fear of rejection. Fears make a leader ineffective and paralyzed. Plans are often forfeited, as is success.
Companies face myriad threats: a volatile economy, politics, cost overruns, competition and disruptive technology, among others. But there’s a particular internal threat that can dwarf them: fear at the leadership level. Fearful leaders often cannot deal with difficult issues or conversations, so moderate troubles balloon into true crises. They also resist taking the risks necessary to move their companies forward.
When leaders have a more positive character, their thoughts, behavior, instincts and responses are more receptive to organizational needs. They see a brighter future in which problems become opportunities.
Negativity and discord have reached historic levels in our culture. It impacts families, communities, institutions and workplaces. Leaders see the results firsthand, as turnover rises, projects fail to hit their goals, and productivity falls short of expectations.
The most powerful truths are often the simplest. Just as negativity causes myriad organizational troubles, positivity has the opposite effect. Logic tells us that a positive approach has to be better than a negative one. We glean this from our experiences and the common sense we’ve acquired. Evaluations of corporate performance and culture affirm that positivity is a powerful, yet often overlooked, force that can determine whether an organization will thrive or take a dive.
As scientists study the brain and learn more about how we achieve optimal functioning, the term positivity has finally captured business leaders’ interests. What researchers are discovering about positive emotions at work is essential knowledge for anyone who wants to lead individuals and organizations to high performance.