Why now is the time to foster positive leadership, and how to do it?

| April 12, 2022

With a tight talent pool, low unemployment and the Resignation Wave, companies now understand that they must review their organisational culture to retain their top talent. Culture is led from the top. Hence close attention to both the leadership styles across the organisation and the systems leaders have put in place is necessary. Fostering positive leadership sounds like a fluffy theoretical concept, bus it is based on practical steps that can be implemented in every organisation- no matter its purpose, size or industry.

Are your leaders using positive or negative leadership styles?

Positive leaders encourage, empower, develop, mentor, and build a collaborative environment. They take ownership of their own mistakes and allow others to fail safely by emphasising the learning journey.

Leaders that lead by negativity do precisely the opposite. They hold others accountable, but often not themselves. They respond poorly to team members’ mistakes, do not encourage learning, do not develop their teams, tend to have a silo mindset, and often develop a blame culture around them. As a result, their team members report that they do not feel empowered to make decisions. Team members and other stakeholders feel emotionally drained after meetings with leaders that emphasise negativity.

It is not only the communication style of negative leaders that affects the environment and culture but also their overall behaviours and the processes they implement that create the toxicity.

It is important to remember that positive leadership is not one style- it includes a diversity of leadership styles with common characteristics. Some of the traits that define positive leaders include:

  • Self-awareness
  • Balanced views
  • Open minded and seeking a diverse range of opinions
  • Ego-less
  • Visionary
  • Ongoing personal and team development
  • Stakeholders’ management
  • Collaboration
  • Solution-focused
  • Supporting and empowering others across the organisation

I am avoiding using ethics, trustworthiness, and other related concepts since, in many cases, the negative leaders see themselves as ethical and fair; they are not aware of their role in the toxic environment, nor how they create the “blame culture”. Indeed, self-awareness is critical in leadership.

What processes can every business implement to develop a positive leadership environment?

If you have a leader who uses a negative style, you will need to tackle the issue quickly. Sometimes it is a matter of providing them with mentoring and tools, helping them change. But this is the case in an environment where all other leaders use positive leadership.

When we have a few negative leaders, or when the negative leader is an executive, they most likely have already influenced the organisational culture. And the longer the negativity exists, the stronger its roots in the culture. A thorough corporate culture (best conducted by an external consultant) and a cultural transformation program should be implemented in these cases.

Cultural programs are tailored for each company following the organisational diagnosis of the good and bad cultural DNA. Many processes can be implemented to support positivity in the culture. Some examples include:

  • Recognition program
  • Lesson learned
  • Team development program- combining both technical and soft skills
  • Leadership development program- including teaching all leaders coaching skills
  • Reintroduction of organisational values
  • Innovation culture program
  • Culture of health program
  • Cross-organisational mentoring program
  • Bias in decision-making training

Where from now?

Many HR teams and executives rely on lagging metrics and information—for example, employee turnover and exit interviews. But in a tight talent market, you cannot allow yourself to wait until people leave and then figure out why they resigned. Instead, we need to be proactive:

  • Conduct an external organisational culture diagnosis to review the culture and leadership capabilities.
  • Launch a leadership program to teach all leaders how to encourage, empower, develop, mentor, and build high performing teams.
  • Review and relaunch your company values- are they current, and do people follow them?
  • Review and implement a cultural change plan
  • Upskill managers and provide them with team, culture and leadership tools and support
  • Review your promotion processes and succession planning to ensure positive leadership is part of the selection criteria


How does your business foster positive leadership?

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