Recently, I had the pleasure of presenting some of my work at MuleSoft during a seminar put on by Bobbie LaPorte on the topic of Positive Leadership. Bobbie is an experienced Executive Coach and tri-athlete, she recently completed her Master’s degree in Positive Leadership and Strategy.
In my work with Bobbie and through her education on Positive Leadership, she identified ways that I had been practicing some of the principles in my leadership style, and I was honored to present on the topic with her.
MuleSoft has been ranked the #1 best place to work for 5 consecutive years and a big part of that is that it provides a work environment that encourages everyone to be their best. MuleSoft strives to hire employees that will continue to drive our cultural values. Having an environment that supports and encourages a positive leadership style adds an incredible amount of value by allowing leaders to develop themselves and their teams, all while driving results for their teams and the business.
Positive Leadership as a concept has its roots in countless studies of human behavior and performance. What I appreciate most of all about the concept is how it fuses human biology and psychology with practical perspectives on leadership that take this information into account. Positive Leadership brings in greater clarity components of human performance that tend to be associated with “nature,” such as cognitive biases and willpower; as well as those that are “nurture,” such as motivation and mindfulness. Positive Leadership provides leaders with a clearer understanding of how to best develop their teams.
There are three main components of Positive Leadership:
1. Strengths-based development:
One of the key components of Positive Leadership revolves around strengths-based development. At the core of strengths-based development is the idea that people will naturally perform well in areas where they are already strong. As a leader, any alignment that I can find found between a person’s strengths and the work that needs to be accomplished results in better outcomes for the business, in less time and with increased satisfaction and motivation. This also applies to cases where someone wants to develop a particular skill set. Giving a contributor the opportunity and encouragement to explore something they want to develop for themselves, along with meaningful work, results in happier teams. Happier people drive better results, and the business benefits all around.
2. Mindfulness, mindware, and behavioral fitness:
Another key component of Positive Leadership is the development of mindfulness, “mindware”, and behavioral fitness. These three components are the biological and psychological facets of becoming the best versions of ourselves through continuous improvement.
Mindfulness is a meditative practice that helps develop a stronger link between our cognitive mind and our biology. Mindfulness as a practice strengthens the connection between our consciousness and our body and is a key requirement for being able to manage our “mindware” and maintain our overall behavioral fitness. Mindfulness, in this case, is a regular practice of quieting our minds by bringing focus to only one task that has 100% of our mental engagement. Mindfulness exercises generally start with fully engaging in simple breathing, but mindfulness can be developed during other activities––especially when the focus of our mind is directed toward a single task that has our complete and deliberate attention.
After mindfulness, comes developing an understanding of our “mindware.” I like to think of this as the firmware my brain runs on. Understanding our “mindware” means developing a conscious awareness of how our brains can process thoughts and information based on the strengths and weaknesses of the underlying biology (hardware).
As an example, working memory works like a relatively small whiteboard. It has limited room to store information and, as such, it can lose information if too many thoughts are competing for space. Then, there is the notion of moving our behaviors from requiring our full conscious thought, to becoming habits, to becoming virtually a hard-wired component of our individual “mindware.” This way of thinking about the human mind and performance is based on decades of scientific studies. The benefit in understanding how it works in a practical sense is this: by recognizing how our biology and psychology works under the hood, we can both develop who we are as well as improve our performance.
3. Appreciative inquiry and positive design thinking:
There is a lot more depth in this component than I can cover in a brief post, but at the center of this concept is the notion of developing the ability to appreciate and consider a broader set of possibilities on how a problem may be solved.
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
You can think of this as being able to “think laterally” or “think outside the box,” but the underlying concept is that we should develop our minds and interactions with others as open to possibility, especially as we continue to solve the challenges of an ever-changing world.
Ultimately, Positive Leadership can serve as the backbone of effective leadership styles. And by embracing strengths-based development, mindfulness, and positive design thinking, teams can further tap into the strengths of each member and deliver better outcomes for the business.
Keep an eye out for my next blog post, where I will dive deeper into the topic of Positive Leadership by discussing how to apply strengths-based development.
Inspired to put Positive Leadership into practice? We are hiring managers across various teams. Check out open roles on our careers page.