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Are Positive Leaders the Best Leaders?

When we think of business leaders who have successfully played their part in building worldwide enterprises, we tend to think of people who are extremely smart, decisive and driven in their work. These are attributes you could easily relate to the likes of Bill Gates, Larry Page and Steve Jobs – three innovative leaders who have transcended the way we live today.

Nevertheless, the University of Central Florida, led by researcher Dana Joseph, found what they call the “key” to great leadership in a recent study – a positive attitude.

In the study, funded to analyse the relationship between positivity and effective leadership in the workplace, Joseph and her co-researchers found that correlation did exist between the two – as leaders who are positive are more likely to be viewed as good at their job. The study also found that negative leaders are perceived more poorly than anxious, nervous leaders.

One of the reasons Dr Joseph and her colleagues believe positive leadership is effective in the workplace is because of something called “transformational leadership”, which is a management style that inspires and motivates fellow work colleagues. Transformational leaders mentor their employees, drive the team collectively to succeed and problem solve without worrying or blaming, but instead concentrating on formulating a plan which uses the strengths of the workplace.

Indeed, in order to be a transformational leader, it is integral that you are a happy, positive person. Dr Joseph uses the example of speaking to a room – how many people in a room are you going to inspire and motivate if you are negative and downbeat on stage? The answer is not too many.  Therefore people who are brash, negative and often full of self-doubt, will not have the personality to be a transformational leader.

Leading with a positive, optimistic attitude can take you a long way in business, and it is certainly something that employers take into account when hiring a new leader. A great set of qualifications and a track record in a relevant field can take you a long way, but employers know ultimately that business is personal, and workers need to be able to respect their boss and form a productive relationship with him or her to benefit the economics of the company.

What is clear however, is no specific attribute truly defines great leadership. Just look at our world today, leaders such as Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Larry Page have very little in common with the likes of Donald Trump, Carlos Slim and Sir Richard Branson – illustrating that all leaders all succeed in their own ways.

Nevertheless the study does reinforce the notion that leading with a smile and charisma is unlikely to hold you back, and might even open a few doors.

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