The importance of positive leadership
For every great encounter with leadership, we can all recall a less positive experience at some stage in our professional lives or beyond.
On a personal level, a negative relationship with a manager can stifle an employee’s creativity and initiative, at the very time when organisations are crying out for innovative solutions to stay relevant. More broadly, leadership quality can make or break an organisation of any size, whether public, private or not-for-profit. Positive leadership is the enabler that makes it easier to implement new strategies and maximise productivity in the workplace.
Organisations now recognise that fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace leads to higher levels of performance. Yet, there is still limited investment in nurturing unique and diverse styles and approaches to leadership in many companies. What’s more, even the most successful businesses on paper are not immune to the challenges of diversifying their leadership teams in practice. For some of the most iconic companies in the tech sector, like Facebook, Pinterest and others, diversifying their software engineering staff is an ongoing challenge with obvious implications for the companies’ future leadership teams.
The economic basis for creating a pathway for emerging leaders of all backgrounds to flourish is well established, yet there is often a shortfall when it comes to deploying the necessary quantity and quality of time and resources to making the most of a diverse talent pool. Indeed, Brandon Hall Group’s 2015 State of Leadership Development Study found that as many as one-third of organisations surveyed did not have a formal leadership development strategy. Even more alarming was survey data from the Centre for Workplace Leadership at the University of Melbourne, which found that 75% of employees felt Australian workplaces need better managers and leaders. The outcome? An uninspired workforce who retreat to sameness, and a culture of risk aversion that filters down to the next generation of business leaders, instilling in them a negative attitude towards change.
What exactly does positive leadership look like?
According to AmCham member Suzi Skinner, Managing Director of Roar People, Selftalk, positive leadership stems from cultivating an authentic approach that resonates with people in a way that is constructive, actionable and sustainable. It fosters a cultural shift that energises and empowers people at all levels of an organisation.
Roar People’s Leader Identity program and new book Build your Leader Identity aims to “unleash the leadership potential of every individual, across every organisation.” Grounded in research, the program encourages leaders to explore early life experiences and people that have shaped how strongly they identify as a leader and the strengths they bring to leading in their organisations, families, and communities. And the program has a strong track record of success: previous participants found that it was instrumental in shifting workplace culture towards greater positivity and cross functional collaboration, with positive impact on the bottom line.
Roar People are passionate about the shifting mindset on what constitutes a leader and moving organisations and its people from traditional hierarchical and authority-based leadership to shared leadership. Forward thinking Fortune 500 companies in Australia are already reaping the benefits of making this shift. And as Suzi Skinner remarked, there has never been a more compelling time for the United States to focus on how we each want to lead authentically in actionable and sustainable ways. What’s more, the latest research shows that individuals with high clarity of their leader identity are more productive, engaged and resilient than their counterparts.
Importantly, positive leadership rarely comes from homogeneity. This is largely why so many organisations in recent years have publicly pushed for greater female representation in senior management and board roles. It is also a major reason why AmCham plans to hold a Gender Equality Summit in Q3 2017, which will shine a light on success stories from the corporate world and deliver concrete recommendations on how all organisations can improve their track record in this area. Seen from this angle, taking meaningful steps towards gender equality among leaders is the ‘gateway’ to building a culture that embraces diversity in all its forms.
As anyone who has experienced it will attest, positive leadership can be transformational. The data speaks for itself: making the most of the unique qualities within your team will not only elevate the individual, but will lift the organisation as a whole.