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Leadership, Empowerment, and the Power of Positive 

July 2020
Christopher P. Oldham
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How positive thinking can change not only your outlook but also your career

As someone who considers a positive mental outlook critical to professional and personal success, I have witnessed firsthand the impact a leader’s mental outlook has on an entire organization. As we adapt to an ever-evolving sense of normal, this wisdom borne of positive thinking seems worthy of exploration.

Some misinterpret the concept of positive thinking as wishful thinking, or (even worse) facing challenges with cliched and unsubstantiated peppiness. A positive mental attitude isn’t naive, obtuse, or toxic in a way that makes you seem more like a fortune cookie and less a person with common sense. A positive attitude is a self-driven effort to consciously make decisions grounded in logic, business acumen, and optimism. A positive mental attitude is the choice to keep your self-talk positive and see your responsibilities and challenges as opportunities to do great work even in the face of uncertainty. It is resetting the frame through which you’re viewing life. It is, above all else, a mental discipline.

I was fortunate enough to begin my career under the tutelage of a business owner who leveraged this powerful, positive mindset and saw firsthand the effect it had on both the company and my own personal career. In my first day of orientation as a newly hired entry-level account executive, I was surprised to find the owner of the company present and actively involved. This would prove indicative of the value he placed on asserting himself as an ally to every employee. He was always available for a question or as a sounding board to a new idea or project.  And his positive attitude was contagious. I found myself grateful for and empowered by this leadership style, from which I gained the following insights:

Positive Outlooks Empower Innovation

If you want employees who are empowered to succeed, you must also provide them with an environment that facilitates this. A leader who has the mental strength to maintain a positive perspective is better able to encourage and empower others to succeed. When challenges arise, an employee who can trust that their ideas are going to be met with optimism and not contempt is going to be more emboldened to innovate.  Additionally:

  • A workplace culture that puts emphasis on a positive mental mindset ultimately promotes a growth mindset rather than a fixed one. A growth-focused mindset is essential for innovation.
  • A positive mindset cultivates gratitude and appreciation. Employees that feel appreciated feel empowered to do more great work.
  • By modeling a positive mindset, a leader can build effective teams that work better together and avoid toxic behaviors. A team that works well together can overcome difficulties and find success.

Employee Engagement

Leadership drives engagement among employees, and engagement drives results. Countless studies have been done on the role of leadership in employee satisfaction and retention. A positive mental outlook builds a leader who sees the best in every individual employee’s ideas and potential. It comes as no surprise that employees who have positive relationships with their superiors typically do better at their jobs and stay with the company longer, boosting employee morale and enriching company culture. Additionally:

  • Approaching employees and teams with a positive attitude builds trust with leaders and within teams. Trust is essential as groups work toward problem-solving and overcoming other difficult dynamics and leads to more productive discourse.
  • Employee engagement and retention ultimately mean the company benefits from experience and creates a culture of loyalty. People want to stay at organizations that invest in their talents, and companies can leverage employee’s experience to great success. An engaged and loyal employee is an invaluable one.
  • Leaders who see the best in their employees, who cultivate a culture of trust and support, set their organization up for unmitigated success. Trust is essential as groups work toward overcoming challenges and leads to more productive discourse. If an employee has enough trust in their leader to bring them an idea, the leader has an opportunity to work with an employee who is engaged and wants to benefit the company (even if their idea doesn’t ultimately prove to be fruitful). A positive mental outlook builds a leader who sees the best in each individual employee, both in their ideas and their potential. Both the organization and employee reap the rewards.  On the other hand, an employee who is disengaged will not produce.

Avoid the Cost of Employee Disengagement

All leaders should be aware of the cost of disengagement and the outcomes in a negative culture: When a leader does not consciously choose a positive approach, it sets the tone for the rest of the organization. This negativity can affect:

  • Employee retention: Employees who are disengaged often leave to explore different possibilities and experience less company loyalty.
  • Employee productivity: Negativity breeds stress, and stress eliminates the brain’s ability to work at its maximum capacity. A negative environment literally inhibits output. Unengaged employees are not engaged and therefore are not working to benefit the organization.
  • Healthcare costs associated with stress: Stress breeds a whole host of maladies and affects your blood pressure and ultimately even your lifespan. On the contrary, positive thinkers have been found to live longer, experience less depression and mental health issues, and ultimately experience fewer health issues than their negative-thinking counterparts.

When I look back on my experience with the owner of that company, it is easy to track how his positive, empowering mentality and mentorship created opportunities for me to rise to challenges and become successful. Within six months I was promoted, opened my own office, and took on new responsibilities including hiring my own team,  assuming P&L accountability, and continuing to grow a territory that multiplied into many successful offices. I valued the trust that I was given, and I was emboldened and inspired by a leader who ultimately chose to believe in the talents and abilities of his staff. I will be forever grateful for the impact this had on the rest of my career.

About the Author:

Christopher P. Oldham is a Director at the Stanton Chase Nashville office. He leads search engagements in North America and partners with colleagues across the globe, focusing on recruiting key executives that create value for their organizations. Chris provides his clients a unique perspective with more than 25 years of experience in recruitment, business development, operations management, and consulting in healthcare and professional services. He has conducted hundreds of searches and thousands of business transactions over the course of his career serving a diverse client base that includes healthcare providers, services, payers, technology, biotech, pharmaceutical, nonprofits, and private-equity backed portfolio companies.

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