How To Be a Positive Leader

Small Actions, Big Impact

Jane Dutton (Author) | Gretchen Spreitzer (Author)

Publication date: 05/06/2014

How To Be a Positive Leader

Shows how leaders can unlock the latent power and potential in their organizations through simple actions

* Shows how leaders can unlock the latent power and potential in their organizations through simple actions

* Written by top thought leaders in the field of positive organizational scholarship, such as Kim Cameron, Robert Quinn, and Adam Grant

* Includes a wealth of real-world examples and evidence-based advice

Some leaders are able to dramatically expand their people's-and their own-capacity for excellence. And they accomplish this without enormous resources or huge heroic gestures. Like the butterfly in Brazil whose flapping wings create a typhoon in Texas, you can create profound positive change in your organization through simple actions and attitude shifts.

This book shares what Jane Dutton, Gretchen Spreitzer, and their fellow authors have discovered after years of studying extraordinarily effective organizations. They show that something as relatively easy as letting employees customize their jobs to fit their strengths can unlock their energy, initiative, and sense of purpose. They describe actions that build positive relationships inside and outside the organization-for example, bringing in customers and clients so your people can personally connect with them and experience the impact they're having on them firsthand.

Several chapters explore the many tangible benefits that flow from building ethical organizations that tap into people's innate goodness and sense of fairness. And the authors tackle how to deal with one of a leader's greatest challenges-leading change in ways that build hope rather than fear and make your people active contributors to the change process. Each chapter features a real-world example from both well-known organizations such as Wells Fargo, Ford, Kelly Services, and Burt's Bees to lesser-known ones such as Connecticut's Griffin Hospital and the Michigan-based Zingerman's community of businesses.

Because positive leadership is based on simple, inexpensive actions, it provides a sustainable way to consistently bring out the best in people and organizations. It offers a vision of leadership that is not about richness of resources but richness of possibilities.

Read more and meet author below

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Overview

Shows how leaders can unlock the latent power and potential in their organizations through simple actions

* Shows how leaders can unlock the latent power and potential in their organizations through simple actions

* Written by top thought leaders in the field of positive organizational scholarship, such as Kim Cameron, Robert Quinn, and Adam Grant

* Includes a wealth of real-world examples and evidence-based advice

Some leaders are able to dramatically expand their people's-and their own-capacity for excellence. And they accomplish this without enormous resources or huge heroic gestures. Like the butterfly in Brazil whose flapping wings create a typhoon in Texas, you can create profound positive change in your organization through simple actions and attitude shifts.

This book shares what Jane Dutton, Gretchen Spreitzer, and their fellow authors have discovered after years of studying extraordinarily effective organizations. They show that something as relatively easy as letting employees customize their jobs to fit their strengths can unlock their energy, initiative, and sense of purpose. They describe actions that build positive relationships inside and outside the organization-for example, bringing in customers and clients so your people can personally connect with them and experience the impact they're having on them firsthand.

Several chapters explore the many tangible benefits that flow from building ethical organizations that tap into people's innate goodness and sense of fairness. And the authors tackle how to deal with one of a leader's greatest challenges-leading change in ways that build hope rather than fear and make your people active contributors to the change process. Each chapter features a real-world example from both well-known organizations such as Wells Fargo, Ford, Kelly Services, and Burt's Bees to lesser-known ones such as Connecticut's Griffin Hospital and the Michigan-based Zingerman's community of businesses.

Because positive leadership is based on simple, inexpensive actions, it provides a sustainable way to consistently bring out the best in people and organizations. It offers a vision of leadership that is not about richness of resources but richness of possibilities.

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Meet the Authors


Visit Author Page - Jane Dutton

Jane E. Dutton is the Robert L. Kahn Distinguished University Professor of Business Administration and Psychology at the, University of Michigan and Professor of Psychology. She does research, teaches and works with organizations on issues related to how to bring out the best in employees and in organizations. She studies and writes about how people build high quality connections, how people craft their jobs, compassion at work (http://www.thecompassionlab.com/)  and how they construct self-identities that are strengthening. She is a co-founder of the Center for Positive Organizations (http://www.centerforpos.org/) at the Ross School of Business.

She has won research and teaching awards and has written more than 100 research papers and monographs (http://webuser.bus.umich.edu/janedut/). She leads workshops, builds intervention tools for bringing out the best in people (http://positiveorgs.bus.umich.edu/tools/), teaches in executive programs on positive leadership, and loves doing research, teaching and change around the general topic of positive leadership.



Visit Author Page - Gretchen Spreitzer

Gretchen M. Spreitzer is the Keith E. and Valerie J. Alessi Professor of Business Administration at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. She is also the co-director of the Center for Positive Organizations. She joined the Michigan faculty in 2001 after spending nine years on the faculty of the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. She is passionate about helping people develop as leaders.  

Her research focuses on employee empowerment and leadership development, particularly within a context of organizational change. Her most recent research focuses on how organizations can enable people to thrive at work and become their best selves. She has co-authored six books (including another Berrett-Koehler book, titled How to Be a Positive Leader: Small Action, Big Impact with Jane Dutton) and many articles on these topics. She teaches leadership and change courses to undergraduate and graduate students and executives at Ross. She has been elected to leadership positions in the Academy of Management and the Western Academy of Management. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with her husband, who is a public policy economist, and two teenage daughters.

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Table of Contents

Foreword

Shawn Achor

Invitation

Jane E. Dutton and Gretchen M. Spreitzer

I FOSTER POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS

1 Build High- Quality Connections

Jane E. Dutton

2 Outsource Inspiration

Adam M. Grant

3 Negotiate Mindfully

Shirli Kopelman and Ramaswami Mahalingam

II UNLOCK RESOURCES FROM WITHIN

4 Enable Thriving at Work

Gretchen M. Spreitzer and Christine Porath

5 Cultivate Positive Identities

Laura Morgan Roberts

6 Engage in Job Crafting

Amy Wrzesniewski

III TAP INTO THE GOOD

7 Activate Virtuousness

Kim Cameron

8 Lead an Ethical Organization

David M. Mayer

9 Imbue the Organization with a Higher Purpose

Robert E. Quinn and Anjan V. Thakor

IV CREATE RESOURCEFUL CHANGE

10 Cultivate Hope: Found, Not Lost

Oana Branzei

11 Create Micro- moves for Organizational Change

Karen Golden- Biddle

12 Treat Employees as Resources, Not Resisters

Scott Sonenshein

13 Create Opportunity from Crisis

Lynn Perry Wooten and Erika Hayes James

Epilogue and Looking Forward

Gretchen M. Spreitzer and Jane E. Dutton

Notes

Acknowledgments

Index

About the Authors

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Excerpt

How to Be a Positive Leader

1
Build High-Quality Connections

Jane E. Dutton

Think of the last time an interaction at work literally lit you up. Before the interaction, you may have felt depleted, tired, or simply neutral. After the interaction, even if it was brief, you had greater energy and capability for action. This sense of heightened energy is real, and it is an important indicator that you are engaged in a high-quality connection (HQC). Other signs include a sense of mutuality and positive regard. In HQCs, people feel attuned to one another and experience a sense of worth and value. HQCs are critical building blocks for bringing out the best in people and organizations. The seed for this chapter is that leaders can bring out the best in themselves and others by building more high-quality connections at work. They also can design and implement practices, structures, and cultures fostering high-quality connection building throughout the organization and beyond.

The Value of High-Quality Connections

High-quality connections contribute to individual flourishing and to team and organizational effectiveness. These forms of connecting call forth positive emotions that are literally life-giving. Barbara Fredrickson, who studies the power of positive emotions in connection, suggests these moments of connection start people on an upward spiral of growth and fulfillment.1 For leaders, tapping into the power of high-quality connections means taking seriously the evidence that this form of person-to-person interrelating is at the root of critical individual and collective capabilities. The following are just some of the benefits of high-quality connections:

1. People who have HQCs are physically and psychologically healthier.2

2. Higher-quality connections enhance a person’s physiological resources.3

3. People in higher-quality connections tend to have greater cognitive functioning.4 High-quality connections also broaden people’s capacities for thinking.5

4. People in higher-quality connections are better at knowing who to trust—and who not to trust.

5. When people are in HQCs at work, they tend to exhibit more learning behaviors.6

6. When people are in higher-quality connections at work and when top management teams have greater-quality connections between them, they tend to be more resilient (i.e., bouncing back from setbacks more effectively).7

7. When people are in HQCs at work, they tend to be more committed and more involved, and they display more organizational citizenship behaviors.8

8. When people are in higher-quality connections at work and teams have higher-quality connections, individuals and team members are more creative.9

9. At the organizational level, more HQCs enable greater overall employee commitment and engagement at work.10

10. At the organizational level, more higher-quality connections enable relational coordination, marked by shared knowledge, shared goals, and mutual respect, which is associated with greater organizational effectiveness in terms of greater efficiency and higher-quality performance.11

The beauty of high-quality connections is that they do not require significant time to build because they can be created in the moment. Meaningful investments of time and attention can further strengthen quality.

Strategies for Building High-Quality Connections

As a leader who wishes to ignite the best in yourself and in others, you have a range of potent options for building more HQCs with others and for designing organizations fostering this form of interconnecting.12 We begin with your own interpersonal possibilities and invite you to consider four distinct pathways, or types of actions, to make workplace interactions more likely to yield high-quality connections.

Pathway 1: Respectfully Engage Others

Small acts matter in conferring worth to another person. Respect, or honoring another person’s existence or value, is a state that is created in interaction with other people. Respect is not something we can grant ourselves; rather, it is a quality of experienced valuing from another person coming from subtle or direct messages of appreciation and worth. Respectfully engaging another person is accomplished through behaviors that signal that one person exists and is important in the eyes of another. There are at least three different moves that leaders can engage in to respectfully engage others and to foster the building of HQCs.

One of the most potent ways is through presence, or psychologically and/or physically being attentive to another person’s existence. Conveying presence takes effort for leaders, as hectic schedules, technological demands, and physical demands are just some of the barriers to communicating to another person they possess significance and value. Conveying presence means showing up bodily for another person, whether in someone’s physical or virtual presence. Our bodies provide rich and revealing displays, signaling whether we are present—or absent. We explicitly remind others with our displays to stay attuned to and to be with another person. For example, turning off one’s phone or physically moving away from the computer can be potent signals that one is ready, present, and receptive to connection with another person.

Respectful engagement also happens through effective listening and communicating supportively. If leaders can engage these two critical aspects of respectful engagement, high-quality connections result. Effective listening requires both empathy and active engagement. Empathy implies being tuned into what another person is saying so that one can imagine what the other person is feeling and meaning. Being an active listener means being genuinely responsive to the person who is speaking through moves such as paraphrasing or summarizing what another person is saying, asking questions, or soliciting feedback.13 Supportive communication is a quality of communication that involves attending both to what is said and to how it is said in ways that provide direct, descriptive, and actionable information that another person can hear and use.14 Supportive communication involves making requests and not demands,15 which invites a form of engagement that is voluntary and receptive, leading to a higher quality connection.

Pathway 2: Task-Enable Others

At the heart of task enabling is the core idea that higher-quality connections form if we facilitate another’s success or performance on a task or a goal. When we task-enable others, they sense our interpersonal investment and desire to help, which opens them to an HQC. Of all the options for building high-quality connections, task enabling is often the method most explicitly recognized by work organizations. For example, when organizations assign mentors or coaches to facilitate another person’s development, they are formalizing a task-enabling role. They are betting it will make a difference for a person’s performance or growth. However, most task enabling happens informally, when one person reaches out to help another because they sense that they have something to offer and can make a difference. Critical and often-used enabling resources include emotional support, encouragement, recognition, guidance, task information, and flexibility. The most effective task enabling involves matching the resources provided to the task at hand and the specific style and needs of the person. Accordingly, task enabling often requires soliciting feedback about whether the help being provided meets the need. Sustained task enabling builds and supports HQCs, and works best when a continuous learning process is in place. Both people are soliciting and providing feedback that matches enabling resources with the particular needs of the person engaged in the task.

Pathway 3: Trust Others

Trusting another person is a pathway for building HQCs. Although a well-worn and frequent prescription, trusting others at work can sometimes be difficult. Trusting means being vulnerable and relying on another person to follow through on their commitments. Trusting involves paying attention both to what you say and what you do, as well as to what you do not say and do. For example, good trusting moves include sharing resources, granting access, delegating responsibility, being open, and seeking input. However, trusting to build HQCs also means not monitoring and controlling excessively, ignoring input, acting inconsistently, or accusing another of bad intentions. Trust is hard work, especially if one has grown up or worked in contexts where it is a rare or misused condition. In addition, if trust is broken, it can be difficult and time consuming to repair. Despite these challenges, trusting moves are potent contributors to high-quality connections that make interrelating smoother, more efficient, and more enjoyable.

Pathway 4: Play

All species play, and humans at work are no exception. What is sometimes overlooked is the importance of play in building connections. Moments of play are moments of exploration and interaction, often building new knowledge and broadening action possibilities. They frequently evoke positive emotions, which open people up to new and generative ways of interacting. Play at work is often associated with innovation and creativity because it fosters new knowledge and develops cognitive skills.16 However, the role of play in building connections—especially ones where people are energized and sense mutual regard—is often missed or underestimated. Play at work takes numerous forms. Some units or organizations institutionalize play through team-building activities, volunteer opportunities, or simply by having play supplies, such as ping-pong tables or basketball courts, readily available. Leaders and employees can enact numerous moves to engage play, either in formal forums such as meetings or at informal gatherings such as celebrations. What is most important to remember about this pathway is that it exists as a powerful and low-investment option for building HQCs.

Designing Organizations That Foster Building and Maintaining High-Quality Connections

Leaders have multiple means for creating a work context that encourages both the creation and the sustenance of high-quality connections.17 Leading for sustainable excellence in an organization means taking actions to create and to institutionalize a context where HQCs are the norm and the expected form of human-to-human interrelating for employees, customers, suppliers, and all relevant organizational stakeholders. Leaders have at least three design choices that are likely to cultivate and support high-quality connections.

Reward High-Quality Connection Building and Relational Skills

Leaders have several options for formally and informally rewarding effective connection building. Some leaders create team-based awards where a portion of an employee’s incentives are tied to collective as well as individual performance. The use of team or group incentives focuses attention and motivation around collaboration, which fosters the building of high-quality connections.18 Some leaders also encourage HQCs through the creation of spot awards or peer-controlled rewards, which allow for the recognition of excellence based on a peer’s contribution to collective performance. Southwest Airlines is one organization that deploys these types of incentives, and their use is one of the reasons analysts see them as highly effective in relational coordination.19 Finally, leaders can encourage the building of relational skills (e.g., social intelligence or effective helping) as part of talent development, providing further incentives for creating and building a workforce that is sensitive to and invested in bettering their capacity to build and to sustain HQCs.

Build High-Quality Connection Routines and Practices

Routines and practices are repeated activities and ways of doing things that become typical and normative in any organization. Often taken for granted, these ways of acting may come to typify an organization, but they can be potent contributors to high-quality connection building. Multiple routines and practices foster HQC building. For example, some organizations explicitly select employees who have relationship-building attitudes and competencies. Others routinize significant peer involvement in employee selection as another means for building HQCs when a person begins their organizational membership. Still others utilize onboarding practices that are explicitly designed to foster rapid and significant quality connecting for newcomers.20 Use of relational onboarding practice means giving priority to opportunities that enable newcomers to connect with the appropriate people, instead of overwhelming them with information. Finally, practices used during routine meetings can be potent means for fostering connections. For example, making sure people are introduced in ways that equip others to engage and to trust them, and facilitating people to be well prepared for meetings, are simple but potent practices to bring about high-quality connection building.

Model and Value High-Quality Connection Building

It is well known that leaders’ behaviors model and influence what is appropriate conduct for organizational members and thus are critical shapers of an organization’s culture. Consequently, if leaders wish to foster HQC building, they need to conduct themselves with this mindset and behavioral repertoire in much of what they do. Leaders can convey values and priorities that elevate the importance of connection building, setting the tone for others to see these behaviors as important and valued activities. Researchers writing about the impact of leadership on interpersonal caring and on the creation of caring cultures in organizations identify various leadership behaviors that can shape organizational-level caring (and provide support for the building of HQCs).21 As an everyday example, leaders can act to be present, use face-to-face contact, and engage in active listening, demonstrating knowledge, understanding, and caring for the needs of various organizational constituencies. But leaders can also model values and behaviors in crisis, affecting members’ motivation to connect in high-quality ways with others. Leaders’ actions in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States were important shapers of members’ connection-building activities.22 As an example of crisis leadership, Phil Lynch, president of Reuters America, headquartered in New York City, took immediate actions to continuously and personally communicate and to be present with all his employees as they wrestled with both human losses and technical challenges associated with that day’s horrific events. Leaders’ actions toward others during times of duress and challenge leave an indelible impression of appropriate and desired ways of interrelating that last far beyond the immediate circumstances.

Putting It All Together

Bringing out the best in oneself, and in others, means paying attention to and investing in the quality of the social fabric where we are growing and performing. The quality of the social fabric is built one interaction at a time. When we make these interactions high quality, we build personal strength, and we also strengthen and enrich the fabric that sustains, grows, and facilitates others.

BUILDING HIGH-QUALITY CONNECTIONS WITH CLIENTS: THE CASE OF WESTON SOLUTIONS

Weston Solutions (hereafter Weston) is a global employee-owned firm delivering “integrated environmental, sustainability, property redevelopment, energy, and construction solutions for clients” (http://www.westonsolutions.com/about/index.htm). High-quality connections with clients are critical for Weston’s strategic success because of the large financial stakes involved with each client engagement and the importance of client engagements for the company’s reputation.

Weston’s management intentionally cultivates awareness and commitment to the importance of building and helping others build HQCs with clients. The company provides training on HQC building for all project managers (PMs). An interview study with the PMs revealed three benefits of HQCs with clients. At the firm level, HQCs with clients yield financial benefits by reducing the need for price renegotiations during contract renewals, increasing contract renewal rates, and maintaining sole source supplier status. A PM explained that with HQCs, “we get challenging projects which are more profitable.” At the project level, HQCs with clients keep engagements flexible and bring in more diverse work, while making client work more enjoyable. In addition, project managers report extensive personal and professional learning when client connections are high quality.

As leaders, PMs foster HQCs with clients using five strategies: (1) having frequent, open communication with clients with some regular face-to-face contact; (2) personalizing the client relationship by connecting outside of work; (3) committing to always exceeding client expectations; (4) making early admission of mistakes or missed deadlines; and (5) being open, honest, dependable, transparent, and acting with integrity. Project managers looked for what would be home runs for clients and then tried to hit the ball “out of the park” to achieve quality. As one PM said, “You ask the client, ‘Okay, for this particular assignment, what would a home run be for you?’” Another PM reflected the same core belief about hitting home runs: “It demonstrates to our customers and our clients that we’re willing to do whatever it takes to make them successful. And at the end of the day, we’re going to give them more than they paid for.”


TWEETS


Did you know that short, momentary interactions with people at work are like vitamins that strengthen and fortify you throughout your day?

Expand your repertoires of ways to build high-quality connections by doing more task enabling, respectfully engaging, trusting, and playing more with others.

Have you considered how to design your team, unit, or organization to foster quality connections? Your life and performance depend upon it.

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Endorsements

“Unites exciting research with surprising stories from companies around the world—everything you need to bring out enduring business success by leveraging the power of the positive in human systems.”
—David Cooperrider, Fairmount Minerals Professor of Social Entrepreurship, Case Western Reserve University

“Read this book to reveal wisdom and inspiration about being a leader who has a positive impact on people and work organizations. It is readable and practical, and the ideas and examples are immediately usable by anyone who wants to make a positive difference at work.”
—Ed Lawler, Distinguished Professor of Business and Director, Center for Effective Organizations, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California

“An invaluable resource for academics as well as organizational leaders at all levels. It consolidates cutting-edge research-based insights in effective, inspirational, and transformational leadership from the leading thinkers in the field in a concise, highly readable, and immensely practical manner. This book is destined to be a classic in the field.”
—Raj Sisodia, F. W. Olin Distinguished Professor of Global Business, Babson College, and cofounder and Cochairman, Conscious Capitalism Inc.

“The book offers distilled and accessible wisdom from many years of solid research. It is a tour de force of positive leadership, written with a deep sense of humanity and providing a plethora of concrete practices to make an impact.”
—Arne Carlsen, Associate Professor, BI Norwegian Business School

How to Be a Positive Leader is like a greatest hits album of heavyweight thinkers of positive leadership—thirteen insightful essays and about 800 good ideas one can implement for immediate improvement. You'd have to be wildly negative in your worldview not to walk away from reading this book with a wealth of tangible, doable action steps to take your leadership and your organization's work performance to the next level.”
—Ari Weinzweig, Cofounding Partner, Zingerman's Community of Businesses

“‘What do I
do?' That's the biggest question we hear from leaders who want to create positive organizations. This book is the answer. It gives you specific actions, inspiring examples, and even tweets. Apply this book and you will be a positive leader.”
—Wayne Baker, Professor of Management and Organizations, University of Michigan, and author of United America

“We need many more positive leaders in our society and in business. Positive leaders create possibility for others. They help us do the right thing and enable us to lead more extraordinary lives. This book is filled with practical advice about how you can become a positive leader. Bravo!”
—R. Edward Freeman, University Professor, Darden School of Business, University of Virginia

“Jane Dutton and Gretchen Spreitzer have tapped the greatest minds to provide a one-stop resource for leaders who want to create and maintain a meaningful, purposeful, and positive workplace. The leadership tools and experiences discussed in
How to Be a Positive Leader play to the desires of leaders to inspire themselves and others; enthusiastically promote excellence, virtuousness, and high quality connections; and reward positive deviance in the workplace to bring about exponential positive change.”
—Roger Newton, founder, Executive Chairman, and Chief Scientific Officer, Esperion Therapeutics, Inc.

“Profound, practical, inspirational. Written by the most-respected thought leaders in positive organizational scholarship, the chapter-by-chapter evidence-based recommendations provide a compelling case for immediate practical application. This is a must-read for leaders who wish to broaden and deepen the positive impact they can have on organizations.”
—Jim Loehr, cofounder and Vice President, Human Performance Institute

“As Gallup polls proclaim that seven in ten American workers are disengaged, this book provides a recipe for change. Simultaneously theoretically rigorous and action oriented, the authors offer concrete actions to recreate yourself and spur others to thrive. As leaders seek to move their organizations to higher levels of excellence, this book provides simple but powerful tools to improve relationships and excitement about the future.”
—Deborah Ancona, Seley Distinguished Professor of Management and Faculty Director, MIT Leadership Center, MIT Sloan School of Management

“This insightful and actionable book beautifully articulates a very relevant and timely set of positive leadership principles. The arrangement of the tools in ‘bite-size' segments is the perfect format for any leader to present them just when the team needs it.”
—Fred Keller, Chairman and CEO, Cascade Engineering

“The Center for Positive Organizations is a treasure trove of people and knowledge. Now we have the map to their treasure, and we can unlock it for ourselves.
How to Be a Positive Leader gives us a practical path to become better, positive, inspirational leaders.”
—Rich Sheridan, CEO, Menlo Innovations LLC

“Positive organization studies is a burgeoning field of evidence-based management that, enacted in everyday organizational life, makes a real difference. Organizational dysfunctions need remedies, and many can be found in the wisdom assembled in these chapters.”
—Stewart Clegg, Professor, University of Technology, Sydney

“Every leader and aspiring leader from all sectors of society should enjoy, learn, and be inspired by this practical and highly engaging new volume. Leading positive organizational scholars have made some of the most profound learnings and insights from the more technical scholarly literature accessible to everyone. Don't miss this opportunity to learn how to dramatically improve your leadership skills and make a larger positive impact throughout your career.”
—Stewart I. Donaldson, Dean and Professor of Psychology, Claremont Graduate University

“In this insightful book, Jane Dutton and Gretchen Spreitzer have gathered a sterling group of thought leaders to describe what it takes to become a positive leader. Thought-provoking and provocative, it shows the day-to-day actions leaders can take right now to improve the quality of relationships, build the capacity for collaboration, and unlock the resources of innovation. A must-read for any practicing leader or those destined to follow the extraordinary trajectory to positive leadership.”
—Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice, London Business School

“When I got this book, every single chapter I read struck a chord and made me rethink an element of my own leadership. This book beautifully combines inspirational ideas with high quality evidence. It is thoughtful, insightful, and brimming with fresh approaches. This is a book that will make a difference.”
—Sharon Parker, Winthrop Professor, UWA Business School, University of Western Australia

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