Definition of positive leadership

An emphasis on:

- what elevates individuals and organisations (as well as what challenges them)

- what goes right in organisations (as well as what goes wrong)

- what is life-giving (as well as what is problematic or life-depleting)

- what is experienced as good (as well as what is objectionable)

- what is extraordinary (in addition to what is merely effective)

- what is inspiring (as well as what is difficult).

Positive leadership uses scientific evidence and theoretically-grounded principles to promote outcomes such as thriving at work, interpersonal flourishing, virtuous behaviours, positive emotions, and energising networks.

Positive leadership has at least three areas of emphasis. 

Firstly, positive leadership enables 'positively deviant' performance.  This means its focus is on outcomes that dramatically exceed common or expected performance. 

Next, positive leadership has an affirmative bias.  Its orientation is toward enabling thriving and flourishing at least as much as addressing obstacles and impediments.

Finally, positive leadership focuses on facilitating the best of the human condition, or on virtuousness.  It is based on a eudaemonic assumption—that is, that an inclination exists in all human systems toward achieving the very best of the human condition—so the focus is on unlocking this potential in organisations.


Jim Mallozzi, former senior vice-president of Prudential Retirement and, subsequently, chief executive of Prudential Real Estate and Retirement, described the result of his single-minded focus on positive leadership:  "We started to introduce POS into our organization . . . and, sure enough, we went from an $140 million loss to a $20 million profit, and we actually achieved two times our expected business plan.  We doubled our profits from what we'd expected.  Our employee satisfaction scores went up in nine out of twelve categories. I had been hoping for eight out of twelve, but we got nine out of twelve. I got 110 written pages of comments in our EOS survey, 60 were about the positive changes in our company." [1]

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