If you’re a leader, best-selling author Jon Gordon wants you to take this message to heart: Spreading negative energy solves nothing. In fact, it causes people to shut down. Morale suffers, employees disengage, productivity takes a hit, and profits fall.
“It’s easy to get upset and derailed by anger when things go wrong, but then the issue gets lost because you mismanaged the situation,” says Gordon, author of The Power of Positive Leadership: How and Why Positive Leaders Transform Teams and Organizations and Change the World.
“Leading a team is really a lot like parenting. If you yell at your kids, they miss the message. Instead you have to use love and accountability to help them perform their best at all times.” Gordon strongly believes in positive leadership, which means sharing optimism, hope, and inspiration with your team. Yes, even when—especially when—things go wrong. It also means not ignoring negativity within your organization. (He says this is one of the biggest mistakes leaders make.) You must address the negativity, confront it, transform it, or remove it before it has a chance to breed and grow.
But what does positive leadership look like in action? Consider these three scenarios and the different approaches taken by negative and positive leaders—and why positivity almost always wins out:
Your team member doesn’t deliver their part of the project (again!)
- NEGATIVE LEADERS attack the person and focus on the past.
- POSITIVE LEADERS attack the problem and focus on the future.
“Leaders should identify why the under-performing employee has not delivered and coach the person to solve the problem and achieve success,” says Gordon. “They have to be demanding without being demeaning. They challenge and encourage their teams to continue to improve.”
An employee misses goals and makes excuses.
- NEGATIVE LEADERS complain and blame.
- POSITIVE LEADERS identify opportunities.
“It’s important to help your team remember that there’s always an opportunity for improvement,” says Gordon. “Anyone pursuing anything worthwhile will fail and fail often,” he adds. “I certainly have failed many times, but when I look back, I realize I wasn’t failing; I was growing. I learned that you can dwell on the past or look forward to making the next opportunity great. You can see life as a game of failure or opportunity. It’s all in how you see it.”
An employee shows values inconsistent with company culture
- NEGATIVE LEADERS overlook inconsistencies and move on to other problems.
- POSITIVE LEADERS show love and accountability companywide.
Former CEO Alan Mulally turned around Ford with both love and accountability. He believed you have to love your people, but you have to make sure you hold your team accountable to the plan, the process, the principle, and the values of the culture.
“Mulally had a zero-tolerance policy for violating the process,” says Gordon. “This is how positive leaders should approach dealing with inconsistencies in organizations. If someone violates the process and you don’t address it, then everyone knows you aren’t committed to it. But when you love people and hold them accountable, it’s amazing how fast things can move in the right direction.”
About the author
Jon Gordon’s newest book is The Power of Positive Leadership: How and Why Positive Leaders Transform Teams and Organizations and Change the World. His best-selling books and talks have inspired readers and audiences around the world. His principles have been put to the test by numerous NFL, NBA, and MLB coaches and teams, Fortune 500 companies, school districts, hospitals, and non-profits.
In addition to his new book, Jon has written numerous bestsellers, including The Energy Bus, The Carpenter, Training Camp, The Seed, You Win in the Locker Room First, and The No Complaining Rule. He and his tips have been featured on Today, CNN, CNBC, The Golf Channel, Fox and Friends, and in numerous magazines and newspapers. His clients include the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Falcons, Campbell’s Soup, Dell, Publix, Southwest Airlines, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, Pittsburgh Pirates, BB&T, Clemson Football, Northwestern Mutual, Bayer, the U.S. Military Academy, and more.
Jon is a graduate of Cornell University and holds a master’s in teaching from Emory University. He and his consulting company are passionate about developing positive leaders, organizations, and teams.