Picture someone who’s a leader and chances are you’ll think of a corporate president, a military officer or political figure. But the mom who is managing a household, or a coworker who’s in charge of a team, or the neighbor who shepherds a troop of Cub Scouts is a leader, too.
If leadership is one of your top personal strengths, the VIA Strengths Survey would tell you that you enjoy “encouraging a group to get things done and preserving harmony within the group by making everyone feel included. You do a good job organizing activities and seeing that they happen.”
From time to time, most of us end up in leadership positions of one kind or another. And all of us can learn to lead well, and to exert the power of positive leadership.
In fact, it’s positivity that gives leadership its real power. Read through lists of the qualities that good leaders possess and you’ll find characteristics such as:
- Integrity, Honesty
- Quiet Confidence, Humility
- Open to Change
- Empowers Others, Supportive
- Risk Taking
- Sense of Humor
Good Leadership is Service
Len Petrancosta, from Pittsburgh’s Sandler Training by Peak Performance Management, Inc., told me that the primary benefit of leadership is “the satisfaction of helping people reach their full potential.” And helping people reach their full potential is exactly what a positive leader does.
Petrancosta and his colleagues train sales people, executives and managers to achieve their potential using a beautiful model called The Leadership Challenge® based on the best-selling book by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. The model teaches the five practices of good leaders, the ones that all of us can use to lead well, regardless of how humble our leadership roles may be.
- First, good leaders identify the values that will guide their work and do their best to embody them.
- Second, they hold a clear, high vision of what they want to achieve, of the best possibilities, and they communicate their vision to others.
- Then comes the challenge of looking for opportunities and means to achieve their vision. They experiment and take risks; they try new avenues. They evaluate the outcomes and make adjustments, building on small wins.
- Fourth, good leaders build relationships within and between their teams. They promote cooperation, build trust, and encourage self-determination and competence in their people.
- And finally, they lead from the heart. They recognize the efforts of others and express their appreciation. They celebrate achievements and wins; they applaud excellence and adherence to values. They acknowledge the cooperative efforts of everybody involved.
By following these practices, leaders serve both their purpose and their people. They keep focused on what they want to achieve and about how they want to achieve it. They understand the essential ‘Why’ behind all that they are doing.
Knowing Your Why
To be a great leader, knowing your ‘Why’ is essential. Here’s how author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action explains it:
Knowing your ‘Why’ is working from the inside out. It starts with your core values, what you care about most deeply. And it moves right through the five leadership principles, serving as the foundation for them, and ending in celebration as your purpose is advanced and achieved.
That’s the place to begin. When you’re leading your kids to cleaning their rooms, let them know it’s because you value beauty, cleanliness and order. When you’re leading your sales force to achieve new records, remind them of the way your product serves its users and contributes to their lives.
That’s where the power of positive leadership resides: in serving your values and in helping others reach more of their own potential by joining in the effort.
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If you enjoyed this article please pass it on. This is one in a continuing series of articles on positive psychology’s 24 character strengths. To find the others, go to our Article Index and scroll down to, “Strengths, Individual.”
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