“Concentrating on the positive and on strengths offers tangible benefits for both employees, teams and the company as a whole” (Hunziker, 2018, original quote in German).
Positive Leadership is a particular leadership approach that aims to achieve outstanding results by systematically focusing on human strengths (Seliger, 2014; Hunziker, 2018). Jim Mallozzi, a former CEO from a large insurance company, gave his best performance team the opportunity to implement positive leadership practices. This led the company to significantly improve its performance within one year: It got out from a financial loss of USD 140 million to a USD 20 million profit (Cameron, 2013, p. 2). Thus, positive leadership matters.
Two concrete, simple, and effective strategies to implement positive leadership by focusing on character strengths:
Character strengths are measurable, positive, individual components of good character (McGrath et al. 2010; Harzer & Ruch, 2013). For instance, the VIA-Classification (Peterson & Seligman, 2004) outlines twenty-four character strengths (e.g., leadership, creativity, and teamwork), and the instrument VIA-IS (Peterson et al. 2005) measures the twenty-four character strengths in adults.
- Strength-Spotting: This is a strategy to easily celebrate character strengths at work in you as well as in your teammates and employees (Niemiec, 2019). There are different methods on how to apply this strategy, but this article focuses on the three most important ones for the practical context:
- Employee reviews: Include your employees’ character strengths in formal feedback meetings (Niemiec, 2019). Combine the character strengths with feedback on productivity, tasks, and business goals so that employees have a bigger picture of themselves (Niemiec, 2019).
- Mission link: In meetings with individual employees or your team, explicitly explain how their character strengths contribute to achieving the company’s strategical goals (Niemiec, 2019), which is relevant also for the company culture.
- Character Strength-360°: Ask your employees to check each other’s five character strengths alongside with one concrete example (Niemiec, 2019). For more information, see the document Character Strengths 360°.
- Application of Character Strengths: Applying character strengths at work contributes to positive experiences, such as job satisfaction, pleasure, meaning, and engagement (Harzer & Ruch, 2013).
- VIA-IS: You, your employees, and your team can measure character strengths for free with the VIA-IS on the website viacharacter.org. Afterwards, you could learn what the character strengths of your employees and your team are to encourage their use at work.
- Increased job performance: Improved overall job satisfaction may have a positive impact on job performance (Judge et al., 2001). In other words, there is a positive correlation between overall job satisfaction and job performance, such that generally more satisfied employees may perform better than generally less satisfied employees (Judge et al., 2001).
- Application at work: Your employees, team and you can apply your character strengths at work in different manners. For instance, if creativity is one of your character strengths, you may want to apply it at work by brainstorming with your employees how they could more efficiently apply their own character strengths at work, thus supporting your positive leadership. If you are curious to understand how other character strengths can be applied at work, keep tuned for our next article “How to Apply Your Character Strengths at Work” in July.
Positive leadership brings outstanding results for the organization (e.g., profitability), and thus, it matters. There are many manners of implementing positive leadership at work, from which two of them are with the strength-spotting method and the application of character strengths at work. I wish you a positive leading!