Positive Energy in Organizations
A great deal of evidence is available that confirms that positively energizing leadership and positive practices produce successful performance in organizations. Even in industries that normally eschew practices that are not linked to bottom-line results, positively energizing leadership has been shown to have significant positive impact on performance. The display of positive energy in leaders, in fact, has proved to be much more important in predicting performance than the amount of information or influence leaders possess.
Attributes of Positively Energizing Leaders
The empirical evidence is strong that virtuousness is heliotropic in the sense that human beings are inherently inclined toward virtuous behavior; virtuous behavior is a key element in creating strong, flourishing relationships; and these relationships produce positive outcomes. An important point needs to be made, however, regarding this discussion of virtuousness.
Virtuousness, by definition, is inherently valued for its own sake. Virtuousness is not a means to obtain another more desirable end, but it is a valued end in itself. In fact, virtuousness in pursuit of another more attractive outcome ceases, by definition, to be virtuous. Gratitude, generosity, and integrity in search of recompense are not virtuous. If kindness toward employees is fostered in an organization, for example, solely to obtain a payback or an advantage, it ceases to be kindness and is, instead, manipulation. Virtuousness is associated with social betterment, but this betterment extends beyond mere self-interested benefit.
PRINCIPLE: In trying times—including the recent spate of earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, cyberattacks, ethical lapses, wildfires, and the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic—most people tend to focus on the uncomfortable, the uncertainty, and the adversities. Racial injustice, economic devastation, and loss of life have elevated our consciousness toward what is wrong in our world. When people are struggling emotionally, stressed from the loss of loved ones, jobs, or relationships, or just gritting through difficult days, it is hard to be positive. Happiology is not the preferred prescription for coping with tragedy.
SUGGESTION: Focus less on mere cheerfulness, positive thinking, and unbridled optimism than on demonstrating virtuousness. Virtuous behaviors—including gratitude, humility, kindness, generosity, contribution, forgiveness, compassion, trust, and integrity—are heliotropic and lead to positive energy and thriving, especially in difficult times. Behaving virtuously provides a way to flourish in trying times by unlocking the positive energy inherent in all human beings.
PRINCIPLE: A variety of forms of energy exist, including physical energy, emotional energy, mental energy, and relational energy. Each of the first three forms of energy diminishes with use. They require recuperation or recovery time when expended. Relational energy actually elevates with use. It is renewing.
SUGGESTION: Nurture relational energy with people close to you. Make certain that you invest sufficient time and resources in these relationships so that they remain elevating, replenishing, and life-giving. Inspire these people to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more by demonstrating positively energizing leadership.
PRINCIPLE: Every living system—from single-cell organisms to complex human beings—is inclined toward positive energy and away from negative energy, or toward that which enhances life and away from that which detracts from life. This is called the heliotropic effect, and abundant scientific evidence confirms its presence in human beings.
SUGGESTION: Capitalize on the heliotropic effect in your leadership roles, in your relationships, in your marriage, in your work, and with your children. Enhance and engender life more than you detract from life. Be a source of thriving for other people by behaving in ways that are virtuous.
PRINCIPLE: Positively energizing leadership is not the same as being extroverted, outgoing, or charismatic or possessing a senior position in the organization. Individuals lower in the hierarchy can be the most positively energizing people in the organization.
SUGGESTION: Regardless of your title or hierarchical position in your organization, give life to the system and to everyone with whom you interact. Seldom are the most positively energizing people in organizations the folks who occupy top positions. Behave virtuously toward others. Contribute to the well-being of those around you. Identify the meaningfulness of the contributions you are making.
PRINCIPLE: In organizations, information and influence are frequently the primary means used by leaders to obtain results. Ensuring that employees are informed and influenced to achieve goals and targets is a central focus in most organizations. Yet, positive relational energy is significantly more important in predicting performance than are information and influence.
SUGGESTION: Contribute more positive energy to your organizations (work, family, community, faith groups) than you extract. Give significant time and attention to enhancing positive relational energy around those with whom you interact—more than the time you spend giving instructions or attempting to influence others. Consciously strive to be a positively energizing leader. Capitalize on the positively energizing people in your work and in your life.
PRINCIPLE: Positive energizers are higher performers than other people, and other people perform at higher levels when they are around positive energizers. Positive energizers help other people flourish without expecting a reward or recognition.
SUGGESTION: Identify the positive energizers in your organization and in your relationships. Spend time with these people, reflect their energy back to them, and mobilize them to help foster organizational change. Put together a team of positive energizers to lead important change initiatives.
PRINCIPLE: In chaotic, turbulent, uncertain conditions, a stable standard must be identified in order to effectively manage the environment. Without a constant, unwavering guidepost, it is impossible to make progress. Something universal must be identified to guide behavior.
SUGGESTION: A universally accepted standard is the value of virtuousness. All human beings value kindness over abuse, generosity over selfishness, trust over distrust, love over hate, and compassion over indifference. In addition, virtuousness is heliotropic, and from infancy all human beings are inclined toward and flourish in the presence of virtuousness. Prioritize the demonstration of virtuousness, especially when others are struggling with uncertainty, contention, or grief.