Developing Positive Leadership Skills

Positive leaders leave a lasting impression on the members of their organization. They are notable for their strength of character and integrity, and have a variety of qualities, all of which can be developed and strengthened, and which encourage participation, honesty, and empathy in other individuals. Positive leaders foster feelings of support and safety and have the greatest success maintaining energy and member retention in their organizations.

Positive leaders often have these qualities:

  • Kindness: they are patient with others, and refrain from “venting” by saying negative things about others. They steer clear of gossip, and are able to tell people truth in a way that does not make the recipient feel attacked or undervalued.
  • Integrity: at its heart, integrity is a one-to-one ratio between what you say you will do, and what you actually do. Leaders who follow through consistently on what they say they will do, and who keep their promises to their constituents, are seen as having integrity. These leaders are viewed as trustworthy individuals who members can rely on.
  • Objectivity: leaders with objectivity give good feedback to their members. They are capable of distinguishing between a person and a person’s actions, and when responding to situations they address the behavior involved rather than making their critiques personal. Think “this could have been better,” rather than “you could be better.”
  • Initiative: rather than waiting for something to happen, positive leaders are the ones making change. Whether it’s proposing an idea or giving others the support they need to turn their own ideas into reality, positive leaders are action-oriented. They also often see potential problem areas and work to address those areas before they become real issues.
  • Forgiveness: sometimes things go wrong or others don’t live up to your expectations. The important thing is not to dwell on these moments, and instead keep moving forward. Positive leaders recognize that everyone deserves a chance to learn from their mistakes, and work actively to provide those chances (this doesn’t mean they let it slide!)
  • Delegation: As has been mentioned elsewhere on this site, delegation can be key to making your members feel needed and as though they have invested their time wisely. A good leader understands they cannot do everything themselves, and learns how to involve others in the meaningful tasks they have undertaken.

Positive leaders also learn skills to help them utilize their positions for the betterment of their organizations. Examples of these are:

  • The ability to focus their energy where it can benefit the organization in the greatest capacity. Also known as “picking your battles,” it means that a good leader can tell the difference between investing where they can make a difference and spending time trying to change something that is outside of their control.
  • Rewarding communication. When people come to them with questions or observations, positive leaders reward them by listening carefully to what they have to say, and responding in a way that demonstrates comprehension and empathy. Whether it is by acting (when appropriate) on what they have been told, or by taking the time to explain why they feel a certain way about an issue, leaders can make the members of their community feel respected and listened to if they follow this technique. It is also empowering to bring an idea to an organization’s leader and be given due consideration.
  • Assuming the best of others: most of us act out of good intentions, and have the best interests of others at heart. Yet sometimes, in moments of stress, it can be easy to believe someone is acting a certain way out of malice. This is especially common in emails, when we assign tone to what we are reading! A valuable skill is learning to take a moment to reset our responses to actions or communications, and remember that we may be making assumptions about the intent of the other parties. Leaders who assume the very best of those they work with often find the favor is returned!
  • Willingness to work through differences. No community works in perfect harmony all the time, or even most of the time. When conflict arises, for many the first impulse is to avoid the problem. One of the keys to positive leadership lies in facing these conflicts head-on, with compassion and patience, and working with all parties to address the grievance. Conflict is not without benefit! Where two people do not see eye to eye with one another, there is an opportunity for sharing stories, expanding our empathy, and creating a greater understanding of our differences. For more information on conflict management, please go here.
  • The ability to recognize teachable moments, and educate their group members rather than reacting in a way that will shut down conversation.
  • Thoughtfulness: positive leaders think before they speak, or act, and take the time to recognize what impact their words and actions will have on the people they work with.
  • Willingness to understand, rather than need to be understood. They understand that not everyone shares their life experiences, and realize the first step to mutual understanding is often putting their stories second and listening to those around them.
  • Ability to admit their mistakes! No one is perfect, and occasionally you will, in spite of your best intentions, fall short of the mark. That is okay. Your members will be willing to extend a great deal of goodwill towards you if you admit to it and then work to create a solution, or apologize if necessary. And remember, while an apology is nice, those you are apologizing to are in no way obligated to accept it. That doesn’t mean the relationship is broken forever! They may not be in a good place to hear your apology in that moment, and many people feel apologies are an easy way out of the situation. Be careful not to end a discussion by apologizing: make it clear that for you, the apology is only the first step, and you intend to work hard at preventing the same thing from happening in the future and reaching a deeper understanding of why it happened and how it affects everyone around you, (if necessary.) If the mistake is a small thing, like forgetting to do one of sixty things, then you can probably just apologize and move on.