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Positive Leaders Spread Productivity

Monday, March 4, 2013
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Everyone wants happy, productive employees. But that’s not easy, mainly because you can’t make people positive or happy—only they can.  However, they can catch positivity from a leader. It’s as if positive leaders spread a “healthy” virus.

Research by social scientist and professor Robert Cialdini in his landmark book, Influence, indicates that authority is one of six major influencers in our lives (Reciprocity, Commitment/Consistency, Consensus, Liking, Authority, and Scarcity). We stop when a cop signals us to pull over. We take medication that the doctor orders. Authority is a kind of high-order influencer. In one experiment with pilots in a simulator, the pilots were told by experimenters to make a clearly catastrophic maneuver within the first few minutes of the simulation to see if any of the crew members would say something to the pilot. But, 25% of the crews said nothing!  Makes me want to consider taking a train! There are numerous historical and business examples where authority proves to be a powerful motivator, for good and bad.

What’s more, our brains are wired with a built in WiFi system called the amygdala that senses threats or rewards.  When a leader enters a room, heck even the building, the amygdalas of subordinates light up, and the closer the leader gets, the more power bars of reception we pick up with our WiFi brains. And if the boss is in a good mood, we register “reward” and smile, relax and are usually more productive. However, when he or she’s in a bad mood, threat registers high. Leaders literally infect us. Positive bosses spread positivity like a “healthy” virus that spreads quickly. What’s more, research by Gallup tells us that positively engaged people produce roughly 30% more than disengaged, unhappy, or indifferent ones.  Not bad!  

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Steve Gladis is the author of an upcoming book this summer, The Positive Leader: How Positivity and Happiness Change the Leadership Game. He also writes a leadership blog: Survival Leadership.


About the Author
Distinguished executive coach, author, and speaker, Steve Gladis is a leadership expert. CEO of Steve Gladis Leadership Partners—a leadership development company—he is the author of 21 books on leadership and a professor at George Mason University in the Mason Institute for Leadership Excellence. His company works with businesses, associations, and U.S. government agencies, and he speaks regularly at conferences and corporate gatherings. A former faculty member at the University of Virginia, Gladis also served as an FBI special agent and was a decorated officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. His company donates a significant portion of corporate profits back to the community. His most recent books are Smile. Breathe. Listen: The 3 Mindful Acts for Leaders and Positive Leadership: The Game Changer at Work. Twitter: @SteveGladis Leadership Blog: Survival Leadership
About the Author
Beth Cabrera is the author of Beyond Happy: Women, Work, and Well-Being and a senior scholar at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. As a writer, researcher, and speaker, she helps individuals achieve greater success and well-being. Beth’s leadership development programs focus on strengths, purpose, mindfulness, and workplace well-being. After earning her PhD in industrial and organizational psychology from the Georgia Institute of Technology, she earned tenure as a management professor at Universidad Carlos III in Madrid, Spain. Beth later taught at Arizona State University and conducted research at the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Read her blog at www.cabrerainsights.com or follow her on Twitter @bethcabrera.
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