On Becoming a More Positive Leader

Positive leaders bring out the best in people. They have a mindset that’s encourages openness, they ask more questions, they try to discover what’s right, and build possibilities and strengths in an organization. How can you become a more positive leader?

It’s not easy to go from a negative mindset to one that’s over 3 to 1 positive. Yet it’s essential if you want to thrive in your work and your life. That’s the ratio that scientists are discovering to be the tipping point for flourishing in both personal relationships and business teams (Barbara Fredrickson, Marcial Losada, John Gottman).

Part of the problem comes from a natural human tendency to focus on the negative, called a negativity bias. Negative information has greater impact and creates more attention, because everyone wants to protect themselves from potential harm. That’s why, in order to overcome the negative pull, leaders need to emphasize three times as much positive information and emotion.

Few tools are better for changing your mind in a positive direction than asking questions. Here’s a story that illustrates my point:

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

“The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”  ~ Anonymous

We starve the Evil wolves and feed the Good wolves each time we stop ourselves from being cynical and emphasize what’s right. When we start asking positive questions, we bring out the best in people.

Of course, there’s a problem in just making nice statements and smiling more. By design, humans are exquisite insincerity detectors. Unless you’re real and you mean what you say, you’ll fall flat on your smiley face.

The challenge comes in finding out what’s real and positive, and expressing that authentically.  One way to do that is to start asking questions about what’s right, what’s working. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll discover, just by asking good questions.

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