Positive leadership isn’t some vague feel-good management fad. And yet it’s not exactly a concrete process like Six Sigma or TQM. Successful implementation therefore requires clearly defined action steps.

Think of positive leadership as a funnel:

  • It starts with the organization and its overarching mission and values
  • Permeates leadership teams through the repetitive expression of positive values and goals
  • Helps managers implement and track progress
  • Ensures individuals know what needs to be done
  • Ensures rewards

You can identify companies that have implemented positive practices throughout history and compare their mission statements with those of their less successful counterparts.

Positivity clearly appears in mission statements that value societal contributions over the desire to be No. 1:

  • Ford Motor Company: democratize the auto (1900s)
  • Boeing: bring the world into the jet age (1950s)
  • Sony: obliterate the image of poor-quality Japanese goods (1960s)
  • Apple: one person, one computer (1980s)

Compare those mission statements with the following:

  • GE: be No. 1 or 2 in every market we serve
  • Walmart: become the first trillion-dollar company
  • Philip Morris: knock off R.J. Reynolds as the No. 1 tobacco company
  • Nike: crush Adidas
  • Honda: destroy Yamaha

Improving positive leadership starts with your organization’s mission statement. Ask “why” you and your organization are here; then, ask yourself and your colleagues what you/they want on a deeper level:

  • Which values merit coming to work each day to give your best?
  • How will you inspire staff and customers to make contributions that benefit the world?

The Language of Positive Conversations

Begin to transform your team by attaching everything you say and do to higher goals and values. Leaders, managers and staff become more positive when they pay attention to the language they use. Rephrase statements in a more positive way, without sacrificing honesty or reality.

If you’re in a management position, everything you say – or don’t say – is magnified, making it even more important to boost your positive/negative ratio. Aim for a least a 3:1 (ideally, a 5:1) ratio of positive to negative statements. When you adopt this approach, others will follow suit.

In my work as an executive coach, most people report they don’t get enough appreciation. That’s a clue that they’re probably not giving enough either. What do you think?