Power of positivity in contemporary business leadership
Positive thinking is crucial not only in life but in business as well. The capacity to illuminate the positive side of a circumstance – consequently dimming the negative – can transform a company's fortunes on the immediate and in the long term.
As a business leader, the workplace naturally reflects your psychological configurations. A happy workplace is effectively a happy leader. Equally, a gloomy workplace is most times, the translations of a gloomy leader.
In this case study, we will delve into the dynamics of positive thinking – especially at the leadership tier – and how it affects the entire company, output, and even revenue accrual.
Positive leadership reduces workplace tension
Tension in the office is not uncommon. Some companies are practically pressure cookers, where the employees are stuffed exorbitantly with stress. It is not unsurprising that 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress.
The impact doesn't just end in the psychological dimension, stress – in the form of workplace tension – significantly affects business revenue. Every year, workplace stress robs American businesses up to the tune of $300 billion. In reality, stress is mostly instigated at the executive level and passed down the chain of command to the lowest downline employee.
The mental math is simple: a happy worker is a better worker. It is up to the leader to diffuse the tension in the workspace, consciously injecting more conviviality into the atmosphere, so employees feel comfortable enough to put forward their best versions.
Indeed, it is almost impossible for a business to go through smooth conditions in the market perpetually. The volatility in the entrepreneurial space means the boss is going to have transitions between good moods and bad moods. But he shouldn't directly transmit it to his staff.
Similarly, external stressors in terms of economic downturns, loss of market share, changing customer appetites (or demand patterns) are going to show up down the line. This would rightly instigate more tension in the workplace. Notwithstanding, it is up to the positive leader to shield the team from the mental heat arising from these external stressors, inoculating the staff with positivity enough to keep performing optimally in their roles.
Burt's Bees – a personal-care products company in July 2010 experienced significant structural pressure due to rapid expansion into nineteen new international markets. The pressure was drastically amplified, and it would be seemingly forgivable if the bosses wind up their subordinates with stress, especially as anxiety was dousing the air at work.
However, John Replogle, who was the CEO of the company back then, took a rather ridiculous approach of sustaining the conviviality of the work atmosphere. John would regularly send emails to team members, personally acknowledging their input in the global expansion program. John would also host 3-hour sessions with his staff, consciously focusing on making them happy and relaxed even in the incinerating heat arising from the expansion pressure.
With John Replogle's radical leadership approach, his managers and their respective staff were adequately buffered from the pressure, maintaining strong cohesiveness and spirit of fraternity through the company such that the transition of Burt's Bees to a global entity was remarkably fluid.
Positive thinking helps you mentally broaden your possibilities
As a business leader, it is essential to have ample mental real estate to consider a broad range of possibilities when making executive decisions. However, in the absence of positive thinking (which infers the prevalence of negative thinking), pessimism significantly shrinks your options far more than you have realistically. This wrongly eliminates the viability of a broad spectrum of possibilities you supposedly had a business leader.
Negative thinking triggers a sense of panic to an assumed danger, which is often not real. In this heightened state, our brain automatically launches into a survival mode. Frequently entering this state can be destructive because your panic button is pushed too readily, even in minor and dispensable events. In such states of heightened mental irritability, your typical administrative composure is replaced with raw spontaneity.
You become very flammable to your staff or lose a bulk of your attentiveness (regarding your aptitude to pick up the crucial finer details). The implication is that your rationality and deductive analytic capacity (very critical to any business leader) are handicapped. This is where you see instinctive – and largely illogical – orders flying out en masse from the leader's mouth.
Sure, such a state of mental entropy is going to rub off on virtually everyone on your team, pumping up their anxiety levels. This goes on to substantially affect their work and life satisfaction. What would the results be? Poorer business outcomes.
This is further confirmed in an insightful study by researchers Laura King, Sonja Lyubomirsky, and Ed Diener. This study involved a meta-analysis of 225 academic studies. In the end, results show a robust proof of the directional causality between favorable business outcomes and life satisfaction.
Positive thinking springs up creativity in a business leader
Few things have been proven to kill creativity as quickly as sustained negativism. Such cynicism is highly consequential, causing the business leader to believe in the worst versions of people and possible events. This significantly inhibits creative leadership.
Negativism – especially at the executive level – rapidly consolidates into the workplace culture, creating a zombie army of disinterested workers violently averse to taking the slightest grain of risk. This is going to cost the business enormously, especially in missed opportunities that sporadically pop up in the market.
More than the economic devastation such negativism causes, there is the social virus it poisons the workplace with. An air of antipathy readily brews between managers and even low-level staff, hampering relationships and alienating teammates. All these would go up to amplifying the stress element at work.
Positive thinking, on the other hand, substantially elevates that feeling of succor. This state of mental calm is crucial to exploring cutting-edge options that could turn out exponentially lucrative for your business.
Renowned American psychologist Barbara Fredrickson discovered that when people deliberately classify more circumstances as positive instead of being neutral, they would consistently generate positive sensations in them. These sensations cut through a sense of gratitude and happiness, radically increasing their scope of awareness.
This increased awareness triggers game-changing creativity and reinforced capacity in the business leader to identify opportunities supposedly opaque to the average mind.
Barbara Fredrickson tags this phenomenon the Broaden-And-Build theory. In a series of studies, Barbara proves that sustained positive emotions transform our peripheral vision. This way, there is an increased innovative perspective in the individual, with a more encompassing scope of consciousness to his environment.
This would lead to a dramatic deviation in the way they approach situations, quite distant from the orthodox. Effectively, the business leader becomes more flexible, front-thinking, with a sizably increased risk appetite.
Positive thinking from the leader builds robust social support at work
Social support, precisely from the leadership, is crucial in combating occupational stress. High-pressure roles steadfastly require leadership elating personnel. While this doesn't mean less of accountability, but unnecessarily upbraiding already volatile workers (consequent of the positions they occupy) can be devastating for the personnel and the company at large, in terms of results.
With positive thinking, leaders have been able to dramatically turn around their companies' fortunes by furnishing subordinates with improved social support. A revealing study jointly carried out by Bradley Layton, Timothy Smith, and Julianne Holt-Lunstad, revealed that increased social support improves life-work balance (and overall health) as efficiently as exercise does. Equally, deficient levels of social support from leadership damages health as devastatingly as high blood pressure.
Perhaps one of the most revealing cases of the core importance of enhanced social support was demonstrated by Ochsner Health System. This reputable health care provider adopted a custom "10/5 way" to boost social support among patients and employees.
Consequent to massive re-education of 11,000 personnel (cutting across physicians, leaders, and employees) on patient experience, these individuals are required to overhaul their behavior positively. Newly established protocols demanded that while in the hospital, employees who walk within 10 feet of another individual must appreciably make eye contact and smile.
Similarly, a "hello" courtesy was mandatory when employees walked 5 feet within themselves. The results were impressive. Upon the diligent application of the 10/5 model, the hospital enjoyed a 5% leap in unique patient visits. Also, there was a corresponding 5% hike in the possibility of a patient to recommend the healthcare provider. Effectively, there was an admirable improvement in the healthcare provider scores.