Building Great Leaders

Positive Leadership: If You Build It They Will Come

Our workplaces are changing because the world is changing as we become more connected. Old-school, top-down leadership doesn’t motivate employees. Showing diversity in numbers doesn’t make corporations any more inclusive.

Globalization has shifted the paradigm as companies become desperate in the face of a shrinking skilled workforce. If we want to stay competitive, we need positive leadership to attract and retain top talent.

The Global Workforce is Out to Burst Our Bubble

Up until the past ten years, corporate America existed in a bubble—a closed, seamless ecosystem where leadership called all the shots. Workers altered their beliefs to fit the culture, regardless of their race, gender, or religion.

That bubble has been popped by globalization. Eighty-two percent of American CEOs are concerned that corporations have become “fragmented ecosystem[s] with multiple beliefs and value systems.” Globalization is forcing corporate America to change.

We can’t compete if we fail to attract and retain highly-skilled, diverse talent. This is why positive leadership gives companies the edge. Positive leadership fosters inclusive, transparent organizations that engage employees. As a direct result, these forward-thinking companies are much more profitable.

It Pays for Corporations to be Engaging and Interesting

“The workplace is being reshaped and redefined by the modern workforce and an evolving mindset that prioritizes life before job, coach before boss, strengths before weaknesses….” Gallup 2017 State of the American Workplace.

Engagement, plainly put, is good for business. Focusing on an employee’s strengths instead of weaknesses, helping them to succeed, and contributing to their overall growth and development are things that positive leaders do in order to keep employees highly engaged (i.e. to make them stick around.)

Gallup defines highly engaged as having their basic, individual, collaborative and personal growth needs met by their jobs. According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace, 33 percent of employees in the U.S.  (dismal when compared to 70 percent of global organizations) reported being “highly engaged” at work. Workers that are highly engaged are more likely to stay in their jobs, perform better and earn more for the company. Companies with workers who are highly engaged earn 147 percent more per share than companies whose workers report low levels of engagement.

Diversity is profitable, but it can be uncomfortable and may lead to conflict. Positive leaders help employees from various backgrounds navigate conflict and learn how to work with different communication styles to get to the good stuff: innovation.

An article in The Scientific American argues that diversity makes us smarter. It states that groups of people of different races, genders, ethnicities, abilities and sexual orientations are more innovative than homogeneous groups. In addition to the obvious conclusion–that diverse viewpoints enrich collaboration–, the researchers discovered something unique. The author writes, “Simply interacting with individuals who are different forces group members to prepare better, to anticipate alternative viewpoints and to expect that reaching consensus will take effort.” Citing several reputable studies, the article concludes that diverse companies are even more profitable than those who employ similar types of people.

Can Negative Leaders Really Walk Away From the Darkside?

“Unless we give them access to this information, how will we know if they can become the person they should be? Things don’t happen unless we create a vision of what’s right and we put it out there,” Paul Fayad, C0-Founder and CCO/CFO at ELM.

The human brain is an inherently negative place. Researchers call this our “negative bias,” citing studies that show how much more likely we are to remember a negative event or be attracted to bad news.

They attribute this to our prehistoric survival instinct, where we had to be constantly aware of every possible negative thing in our environment to stay alive. This could explain why leadership has incorrectly focused on getting rid of all the errors—what employees do wrong and how to fix it—as a means to greater productivity.

All leaders are humans with inherent and learned behaviors and most importantly, the capacity to change. While some people argue that qualities of a positive leader (humility, compassion, honesty) are inherent, others argue that leadership skills (fostering better communication, transparency, listening, encouraging) can be learned.

We think it all comes down to leaders having emotional intelligence. If leaders fall even somewhere in the middle of the emotional intelligence bell curve, they will be teachable. If not, they will not see the need to change.  

Looking at Leadership Through Multi-Colored Lenses (4 to be exact.)

In that same 2017 Gallup poll as mentioned above, 75 percent of workers who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of their bosses and not the position itself. That means the responsibility for engaging and retaining employees falls on the leadership.

If leaders are willing to learn positive leadership skills, they can engage and inspire their teams. At ELM, we put our leaders through a program called “The 4 Lenses of Leadership,” which teaches all of us to look at our teams through four positive lenses:

  • The Identity Lens: Positive leaders view their team members as unique, diverse individuals. We create an environment where bias is addressed allowing everyone to feel a strong sense of belonging and safety.
  • The Personality Lens: Through this lens, leaders see how different individuals show up at work, how we can spot potentially toxic team members, and how to optimize our talented teams.
  • The Communication Lens: Positive leaders gain insight into our own communication styles and then take our teams through the same exercise, so we can learn how to communicate openly and respectfully with each other.
  • The Skill Set Lens: Leaders learn how to spot the different levels of skills each person brings to the organization, providing them with opportunities to grow and become key contributors to their teams and to the organization.

The leaders at ELM learn to take a positive approach through the 4 Lenses of Leadership. By approaching leadership humbly, as servant leaders, we shift the paradigm of what a leader looks like in a modern workplace.

Positive leaders help organizations attract and retain a global, diverse workforce who wants to be inspired and connected with their current organizations. While we aren’t out to save the world, we do want to create successful organizations with highly engaged employees and leaders.

 Author: Paul Fayad; Co-Founder and CFO/CCO

 Author: Anne Phibbs; Founder and President of Strategic Diversity Initiatives

 Designer: Patrick Vertino; Art Director