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Positive Leadership: Moving Towards
an Integrated Deﬁnition
Kgomotso Silvia Malinga, Marius Stander and Werner Nell
Abstract There has been a shift in organisations towards leaders who are positive
and able to create positive work environment for employees, as well as build rela-
tionships through teamwork and trust. Many have argued that positive leadership
is needed in dealing with challenges that leaders face in organisations due to the
constantly changing world of work. Although there are numerous studies on pos-
itive leadership, there is still confusion and considerable variability regarding the
conceptualisation of positive leadership in literature. This chapter commences by
outlining the ﬁndings of a critical review of existing literature on the topic of posi-
tive leadership, which considered both quantitative and qualitative articles published
in English that contained conceptualisations, deﬁnitions, descriptions, behaviours,
characteristics, or principles of positive leadership. Thematic analysis was used to
analyse the data. The key themes that were derived from the data included a num-
ber of leadership traits, motivational characteristics, as well as speciﬁc leadership
behaviours. Secondly, this conceptualisation is used as the basis for proposing an
integrated deﬁnition of positive leadership, which in turn is utilised in the ﬁnal part
of the chapter to propose three positive leadership interventions.
Keywords Critical review ·Leadership ·Positive leadership ·Positive leadership
behaviours ·Thematic analysis ·Interventions
Leaders are feeling challenged and overwhelmed in organisations due to the con-
stantly changing world of work which is characterised by volatility, uncertainty, com-
plexity and ambiguity (Rodriguez & Rodriguez, 2015; Youssef-Morgan & Luthans,
2013). Similarly, Luthans and Avolio (2003) report that leaders in organisations are
facing the challenges of declining hope, optimism and conﬁdence in themselves
K. S. Malinga ·M. Stander (B)·W. Ne ll
Optentia Research Focus Area, North-West University, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa
© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019
L. E. Van Zyl and S. Rothmann Sr. (eds.), Theoretical Approaches
to Multi-Cultural Positive Psychological Interventions,
202 K. S. Malinga et al.
and their employees, due to the constantly advancing technology, globalisation,
and uncertain economic climate (Basson, 2008; Gallup, 2017; Meyer, 2007). In
light of these eventualities, Rodriguez and Rodriguez (2015) argue that leaders in
organisations have the duty of making sure that their employees ﬁnd meaning, are
engaged, and feel safe at work. A positive leadership approach has been proposed
as a viable means of achieving states such as these. Positive leadership was born
when researchers started to apply the elements of positive psychology to leadership
(Gauthier, 2015). According to Gauthier (2015), leaders inﬂuence the behaviours
of their employees and the environment in which they work, be it in a negative or
positive manner. The behaviour of the leader has an impact on the employees’ well-
being and levels of stress (Skakon, Nielsen, Borg, & Guzman, 2010; Wijewardena,
Samaratunge, & Härtel, 2014), and in particular, positive leadership behaviours such
as giving support and behaving ethically were shown to have a positive effect on
employee well-being (Wijewardena et al., 2014). Positive leaders thus focus on pos-
itively inﬂuencing their employees and encouraging them to ﬂourish in their work
Positive leaders have been noted to portray leadership behaviours such as empow-
erment (Gilbreath & Benson, 2004), communication, motivation, and keeping their
employees accountable (Wijewardena et al., 2014). In addition, emotional intel-
ligence and optimism are identiﬁed by Tombaugh (2005) as the leadership traits
that positive leaders can develop to enable them to deal with the constantly chang-
ing world of work, and subsequently to keep their employees motivated. Positive
leadership is needed in the development of positive organisations that focus on
strengths-based approaches (Arakawa & Greenberg, 2007). Further emphasising
the importance of positive leadership, Clifton and Harter (2003) report that top-
performing managers focus their energies on developing their employees’ strengths.
Leaders who employ strategies to develop and utilise employees’ strengths have
the potential to improve employee productivity (Gallup, 2017). Given these posi-
tive outcomes, Tombaugh (2005) advises managers who are interested in developing
positive leadership skills to study the literature available on the subject. However,
Gladis (2013) and Zbierowski (2016) point out that little research has been done in
the ﬁeld of positive leadership, because the concept is relatively new. Compounding
this paucity of literature is the fact that considerable variation exists in current con-
ceptualisations of positive leadership (Arakawa & Greenberg, 2007;Avey,Avolio,
& Luthans, 2011; Avey, Hughes, Norman, & Luthans, 2008; Blanch, Gil, Antino, &
Rodríguez-Muñoz, 2016; Cameron, 2008; Kelloway, Weigand, McKee, & Das, 2013;
Youssef-Morgan & Luthans, 2013) which makes it difﬁcult to measure (Antino, Gil-
Rodríguez, Rodríguez-Muñoz, & Borzillo, 2014), study, and conceptualize positive
leadership (Blanch et al., 2016).
In an effort to address these concerns, this chapter outlines various conceptuali-
sations as well as an integrated deﬁnition of positive leadership based on a critical
review of existing literature, and concludes with an overview of three interventions
related to this conceptualisation.
Positive Leadership: Moving Towards an Integrated … 203
2 Positive Psychology
Although positive psychology was ﬁrst introduced by Abraham Maslow in 1954
(Snyder & Lopez, 2009), it only gained popularity 44 years later, when it was rein-
troduced by Martin Seligman at the 1998 American Psychological Association con-
vention (Donaldson & Ko, 2010). Psychology used to focus on illness, weaknesses
and ﬂaws ever since World War II and it was concerned mainly with ﬁnding ways and
tools to heal illnesses; the focus was never on the positives and how to enhance human
potential (Seligman, 2002). As a result, a perception was created that psychology
only focuses on human pathology (Seligman, 2002). Before positive psychology was
introduced, researchers felt that there was a lack of information regarding how and
what would “make life worth living” (Seligman & Cszikszentmihalyi, 2000,p.5).
Furthermore, as much as psychology made it possible to understand what is wrong
with individuals and how to ﬁx it, there was a need to understand what is right with
individuals (Gable & Haidt, 2005) and how to optimise it—which is the main focus
of positive psychology. Over time, this positive approach towards human behaviour
spilled over to the workplace, and to leadership.
Positive psychology is “the study of the conditions and processes that contribute to
the ﬂourishing or optimal functioning of people, groups, and institutions” (Gable &
Haidt, 2005, p. 103), whereas positive organisational scholarship is concerned with
the study of positive outcomes, processes and attributes of organisations and their
employees (Cameron, Dutton, & Quinn, 2003). Positive organisational scholarship
focuses on enhancing and utilising human strengths in order for employees to prosper
and thrive in their organisations, rather than focusing on what is wrong (Zbierowski,
2016). In order to ensure the success of organisations, today’s leaders need to focus
on what works for the organisation, to identify and recognise employees’ strengths,
and to ﬁnd ways of continuously empowering their employees. Collectively, such
behaviours are seen as representing positive leadership (Arakawa & Greenberg, 2007;
Blanch et al., 2016; Gilbreath & Benson, 2004; Wong & Cummings, 2007).
3 Positive Leadership
Positive leadership has become a focal construct for studying leadership in organi-
sations (Blanch et al., 2016). From the 1990s, organisations have been increasingly
placing value on leaders who have the ability to build positive working relation-
ships among team members, leaders who are true to themselves, and leaders who are
positive (Härtel, Kimberley, & McKeown, 2008).
The results of the study conducted by Arakawa and Greenberg (2007)haveshown
that leaders who possess positive leadership behaviours such as focusing on the
strengths of their employees, staying positive in the face of difﬁculty, and frequently
recognising the good work of their employees, contribute to the success of the organ-
isation as a whole. In addition, Youssef-Morgan and Luthans (2013) express the view
204 K. S. Malinga et al.
that positive leadership is crucial in organisations, particularly in trying times, and
based on their study they report that high management performance (in terms of
decision making and interpersonal tasks) is associated with high levels of positive
affect. To further emphasise the importance of positive leadership, Nel, Stander, and
Latif (2015) reported that positive leadership has a signiﬁcant positive relationship
with psychological empowerment, which means that employees appreciate leaders
who encourage them and who focus on their strengths during trying times.
Positive leadership has been deﬁned in different ways since its emergence and no
single integrated deﬁnition or conceptualisation exists (Avey, Hughes, Norman, &
Luthans 2008; Avey, Avolio, & Luthans 2011; Kelloway et al., 2013; Youssef-Morgan
& Luthans, 2013). Furthermore, Antino et al. (2014) argue that although positive
leadership has been widely researched, there is still a lack of relevant contributions
relating to how to measure positive leadership. Zbierowski (2016) echoes this notion,
and points out that there is a lack of literature in the ﬁeld of positive leadership and
the ﬁeld is “characterised by high degree of complexity and disorder” (p. 81). Blanch
et al. (2016) also suggest that there is a “need to generate research that determines
how to accelerate the emergence and development of positive leadership” (p. 173).
Against this background, this chapter outlines the ﬁndings derived from a critical
review that aimed to address the identiﬁed gap and conceptualise positive leadership
within the time frame of 1998–2016, with the intention of formulating an integrated
deﬁnition that might serve as foundation for more uniﬁed measurement and devel-
opment of this construct in future. The latter part of the chapter will discuss a few
interventions related to positive leadership.
A thorough and rigorous search was conducted on published and peer-reviewed
data of conceptualisations of positive leadership, and care was taken to ensure that
selection bias was avoided during this process. Articles and chapters in specialist
books were eligible for inclusion if they were (a) peer-reviewed with a focus on
positive leadership published between 1998 and 2016, as well as any seminal works
published before the stated time frame. The reason for selecting data from 1998 is that
positive psychology which is used as the framework for this study was introduced
in 1998 (Seligman & Cszikszentmihalyi, 2000); (b) national and/or international
studies; (c) articles written in English; (d) peer-reviewed quantitative and qualita-
tive studies; (e) contained in psychology and business journal databases namely:
EBSCOhost; Emerald Insight Journals; Google Scholar; JSTOR; Sabinet Online;
SAGE; ScienceDirect; and Web of Science; and (f) retrievable via the key search
term of “positive leadership”.
The ﬂow chart outlined below reﬂects the sampling strategy that was followed
and serves as an audit trail to record the articles retrieved (Fig. 1).
The selected literature was read to gain insight into the views, viewpoints and
current knowledge and conceptualisations of positive leadership, and subsequently
subjected to thematic analysis, which is a qualitative analytical method for identi-
fying, analysing and reporting themes or patterns within the data (Braun & Clarke,
2006). Thematic analysis is appropriate for this study because the aim of the critical
review is to analyse the themes that are identiﬁed from the existing literature on con-
ceptualisations, deﬁnitions, characteristics and descriptions of positive leadership,
Positive Leadership: Moving Towards an Integrated … 205
Duplication (n= 119)
No conceptualisation of
positive leadership (n=766)
Not peer reviewed (n=54)
Article not written in
Publications meeting inclusion criteria
and critically appraised (n=48)
Full copies retrieved and assessed for
Studies included in review for qualitative
Unable to obtain further
information required to
make assessment (120)
Titles and abstracts identified and screened
through database searching (n=1108)
Seminal works (n= 1)
Positive leadership not in
title, abstract or keywords
Not in work context (n =2)
Fig. 1 Flow chart of study selection process
and to develop an integrated deﬁnition of positive leadership. The phases for con-
ducting a thematic analysis included the following: (a) becoming familiar with the
data; (b) generating initial codes; (c) searching for themes; (d) reviewing themes; (e)
deﬁning and naming identiﬁed themes; (f) reporting the ﬁndings (Braun & Clarke,
206 K. S. Malinga et al.
3.1 Deﬁning Positive Leadership
As a prelude to discussing the main themes that emerged from the thematic analysis
of existing conceptualisations of positive leadership, an overview is given below of
a number of these deﬁnitions in order to illustrate the various ways in which this
construct has been conceptualised in existing literature.
Lloyd and Atella (2000) suggest that the major elements comprised in a vision of
positive leadership are “commitment, courage, dignity, healthy control, choice, deci-
sion, will to action, responsibility, freedom, challenge, personal meaning, authentic
community, communication, activism, social support, and faith” (p. 156–157).
Fry and Matherly (2006) deﬁne positive leadership as “leadership that develops
higher level, universal moral values and character, enhances employee meaning and
connection and maximises both employee well-being and sustained performance
excellence” (p. 11). Antino et al. (2014) agree and allude that positive leadership
“focuses its actions on what is good and on encouraging human potentialities, moti-
vations and capacities; it refers to the way leaders encourage outstanding performance
by centring on virtue and eudemonism, which justiﬁes what a person does if their
goal is to attain happiness and positive leadership behaviour shows a bias towards
the positive end” (p. 590). This means that positive leadership is concerned with
excellent performance and improving employees’ sense of meaning.
Arakawa and Greenberg (2007) deﬁne positive leadership as “employing a
strengths-based approach, maintaining a positive perspective, and frequently provid-
ing recognition and encouragement which increases the engagement and productivity
of employees” (p. 2). Additionally, Robison (2007) is of the opinion that the role
of the positive leader is not merely to focus on employees’ weaknesses, but rather
to focus on employees’ strengths and ﬁnd ways of leveraging these strengths to the
beneﬁt of the employee and the organisation at large. Hence, positive leadership is
seen as a process of focusing on the employees’ strengths and recognising good work
that will result in employees being more productive and engaged at work.
Cameron (2008) believes that positive leadership refers to “an emphasis on what
elevates individuals and organisations (in addition to what challenges them), what
goes right in organisations (in addition to what goes wrong), what is life-giving (in
addition to what is problematic or life-depleting), what is experienced as good (in
addition to what is objectionable), what is extraordinary (in addition to what is merely
effective), and what is inspiring (in addition to what is difﬁcult or arduous)” (p. 3–4).
In this case, positive leadership is described as a process of considering the good and
the bad in individuals as well as in the organisations.
Hannah, Woolfolk, and Lord (2009) deﬁne positive leadership as “the activation
of a set of cognitions, affects, expectancies, goals and values, and self-regulatory
plans that both enable and direct effective leader behaviours” (p. 270). Hannah et al.
(2009) further argue that positive leadership is a self-regulatory process that focuses
on a leader’s self-construct—something that will later beneﬁt both the leader and the
Positive Leadership: Moving Towards an Integrated … 207
Smith, Koppes Bryan, and Vodanovich (2012) deﬁne positive leadership as “either
transformational or authentic leadership” (p. 176) and remark that “positive leader-
ship features motivational and ethical characteristics and behaviours of leaders that
result in positive employee outcomes and increased performance” (Smith et al., 2012,
p. 175). From this deﬁnition one can highlight that according to Smith et al. (2012),
positive leadership is conﬂated with either transformational or authentic leadership.
Youssef and Luthans (2012) deﬁne positive global leadership by taking into
account the antecedents and outcomes of positivity as “the systematic and integrated
manifestation of leadership traits, processes, intentional behaviours and performance
outcomes that are elevating, exceptional and afﬁrmative of the strengths, capabilities
and developmental potential of leaders, their employees and their organisations over
time and across contexts” (p. 541). One can argue that even though this deﬁnition
might seem comprehensive, it still lacks some aspects that might explain positive
leadership, such as enhancing positive emotions, and recognising and encouraging
Kelloway et al. (2013) deﬁne positive leadership as “leadership behaviours that
result in employees’ experiencing positive emotions” (p. 108). This deﬁnition only
focuses on the behaviours of the leader and how they should affect the employees’
De Cremer, Van Dijke, and Bos (2004) argue that “positive leadership styles like
self-sacriﬁce will have a stronger impact on employees’ attitudes and judgments
when organisational outcomes are perceived and experienced as unfavourable or
more negative” (p. 466). In particular, here the emphasis is on the positive leader’s
ability to sacriﬁce his own needs to ensure the success of the organisation.
Tombaugh (2005) alludes that “positive leaders must move beyond worn out mil-
itary models or ﬁctional characters, developing new skills and traits that support a
strengths-based organisational culture” (p. 16). Additionally, Blanch et al. (2016)
conceptualise positive leadership into three components, namely “(1) it places the
focus on people’s strengths and abilities that reafﬁrm their human potential, (2) it
emphasizes results and facilitates above average individual and organisational per-
formance, and (3) its ﬁeld of action is concentrated on the components that can be
seen as essential virtues of the human condition” (p. 173). It can be noted that the
emphasis in this deﬁnition is on adopting a strengths-based approach whereby posi-
tive leaders should create a culture where employees’ strengths will be continuously
developed and utilised, leading to improved performance.
According to Wong and Cummings (2007), “positive leadership behaviours (trans-
formational, empowering, and supportive) may be associated with outcomes through
facilitation of more effective teamwork” (p. 517). Furthermore, Wijewardena et al.
(2014), in their study of creating better employees through positive leadership
behaviour in the public sector, examined“two positive leadership behaviours, namely,
support and ethical behaviour and their impact in aiding employees experience posi-
tive emotions and increasing social well-being, organisational citizenship behaviour,
and individual and organisational performance” (p. 290). This means that positive
leaders will be able to achieve organisational goals through empowering and sup-
porting their employees.
208 K. S. Malinga et al.
“Positive leadership emphasises the need for positive climate, positive relation-
ships, positive communication and positive meaning” (Oades, Crowe, & Nguyen,
2009, p. 34).
Positive leadership is a relatively new approach to leadership and positive lead-
ership it is based on the concept that workers are happier and more productive when
they work in a positive environment. Positive leadership is an approach where the
leader uses positive strategies within ﬁve major areas to inﬂuence his/her employees
to achieve the goals and objectives of the organisation. The ﬁve dimensions that
surround and inﬂuence the organisation include (a) building a positive structure, (b)
operating with a positive purpose, (c) establishing a positive climate, (d) developing
positive relationships, and (e) engaging in positive communications. Positive leader-
ship is more than just a leadership style; it is a leadership approach; it is a mind-set.
Positive leaders have high expectations for their employees, the quality of their prod-
ucts, and the quality of their customer service. They just approach their expectations
with a positive, can do, attitude (Gauthier, 2015,p.7).
Liu, Siu, and Shi (2010) argue that “positive leadership, which comprises positive
attitudes of passion, skills, and conﬁdence to inspire employees, has the potential
to elevate employees in the long term in areas such as trust, commitment, and well-
being” (p. 456). This means that organisations that employ positive leaders will
witness increased levels of employee trust, employee commitment and employee
In their article, James, Wooten, and Dushek (2011) loosely characterised positive
leadership “as abnormally positive behaviour relative to that would be expected for
the crisis circumstances” (p. 459).
Positive leadership means entrepreneurial mind-set of managers who are
entrepreneurially alert—monitor the environment searching for opportunities, rec-
ognize them and utilize them even where competitors perceive threats; leadership
based on trust between managers and employees; fair management that creates the
perception of justice among employees in terms of following clear rules of appraisal,
salaries and promotions; and lastly looking into the future with hope and optimism
(Zbierowski, 2014, p. 59).
In the above case, positive leadership focuses on hope, optimism, trust relationship
and fairness. In contrast, Lam and Roussin (2015) argue that …effective positive
leadership is not unerringly optimistic in all moments and in all things. Instead, it is
a responsibility to create a positive work environment for everyone working in your
company. This means that managers have to not only keep their people happy, but
also eliminate the negative, which can be the wrong people, the wrong process, the
wrong equipment, or other processes that should be eliminated. In the elimination
of this negative, sometimes critical (or focused-negative) behaviours are required of
the positive leader (p. 29).
According to Davenport, Allisey, Page, LaMontagne, and Reavley (2016), “pos-
itive leadership styles consist of managers making an effort to involve employees in
problem solving and decision making, and managers aiming to provide negative feed-
back in a positive way ensuring that the employee feels validated by using statements
that emphasise ﬂexible, two-way problem solving” (p. 420). This implies that pos-
Positive Leadership: Moving Towards an Integrated … 209
itive leaders typically involve employees in decision-making and problem-solving
3.2 An Integrated Conceptualization of Positive Leadership
The various conceptualizations of positive leadership (such as those outlined above)
that have been identiﬁed during the course of the critical literature review were
subjected to thematic analysis in order to identify common themes, as well as the
inter-relationships between these themes. The integrated conceptualization of posi-
tive leadership that was derived from this process is visually depicted in Fig. 2.
As reﬂected in Fig. 2, thematic analysis of existing deﬁnitions of positive leader-
ship suggests that this construct can be conceptualised in terms of certain leadership
traits that the positive leader should possess, as well as certain leadership behaviours
demonstrated by the leader, which will result in certain leadership outcomes, which
beneﬁt the employees, the leader, and the organisation as a whole. The following
section expounds on each of these facets and their related categories and themes.
3.3 Leadership Traits
Thematic analysis of existing deﬁnitions indicates that positive leadership traits
include optimism and a ‘can-do’ mind-set, altruism, an ethical orientation, and moti-
3.3.1 Optimism and a ‘Can Do’ Mind-Set
Research has shown that positive leaders who are optimistic (Lam & Roussin, 2015;
Zbierowski, 2014) and hopeful about the future (Zbierowski, 2014) have a posi-
tive impact on leadership outcomes, such as increased employee engagement and
increased employee productivity (Arakawa & Greenberg, 2007). According to the
literature, a positive leader must have a ‘can-do’ mind-set (Gauthier, 2015), which
means that he or she should generally have a positive attitude and be able to stay
positive in the face of difﬁculty (Arakawa & Greenberg, 2007).
Not only is a typical positive leader optimistic, but he/she usually also places the
needs of others before his/her own to ensure that the organisational goals are achieved.
According to De Cremer et al. (2004), a positive leader is able to make self-sacriﬁces,
and such a leader (compared to self-beneﬁting leaders) has been reported to be
210 K. S. Malinga et al.
OPTIMISM AND A ‘CAN-
•Staying positive in the
face of difficulty
•Increased social well-
•Increased employee trust
positive emotions and
•Going the extra mile
LEADERSHIP TRAITS LEADERSHIP BEHAVIOURS
Fig. 2 Categories and themes of positive leadership
Positive Leadership: Moving Towards an Integrated … 211
more effective in motivating employees. Choi and Mai-Dalton (1998) agree and pro-
pose that self-sacriﬁce is positively related to employees’ organisational citizenship
3.3.3 Ethical Orientation
A positive leader should display ethical characteristics (Smith et al., 2012; Wijewar-
dena et al., 2014) and has to be fair towards his/her employees (Zbierowski, 2014).
A leader who is ethical and has integrity (Antino et al., 2014; Zbierowski, 2016),
and who acts in a manner that is trustworthy and fair towards employees, will likely
elicit positive leadership outcomes. For instance, his/her employees may experience
positive emotions (Wijewardena et al., 2014), increased social well-being, increased
organisational citizenship behaviour, and enhanced individual and organisational
performance (Smith et al., 2012; Wijewardena et al., 2014).
3.3.4 Motivational Characteristics
A positive leader does not only function with a positive purpose (Gauthier, 2015)
and meaning (Lloyd & Atella, 2000; Oades et al., 2009), but is also able to moti-
vate (Antino et al., 2014; Smith et al., 2012) and inspire his/her employees (Liu
et al., 2010). A positive leader has the ability to make employees feel appreciated
and ﬁnd meaning in their work. Positive leaders believe in their employees, they
focus on positives rather than negatives, and whilst still able to assertively address
negative behaviours on the part of their employees when required, they refrain from
unnecessarily discouraging them. Such leaders will likely elicit a variety of posi-
tive emotions and other positive outcomes from employees, for instance increased
performance (Smith et al., 2012).
3.4 Leadership Behaviours
Thematic analysis of conceptualisations of positive leadership indicates that it is
associated with a number of positive leadership behaviours that may be categorised
under three themes: creating a positive work environment, being results driven, and
engaging in positive communication.
3.4.1 Creating a Positive Work Environment
A positive leader should strive towards creating a positive work environment in
order to ensure that even though there is friction and disagreements in the work-
place, employees work in harmony, are able to achieve the organisational goals,
212 K. S. Malinga et al.
and feel empowered. Research has also shown that employees tend to be happier
and more productive when they operate in a positive work environment (Gauthier,
2015). Such an environment is actualised by eliminating the negative, which may
take the form of the wrong people, the wrong processes and/or the wrong equipment
(Lam & Roussin, 2015), which might be hindering the employees’ work progress
and performance. By doing so, the positive leader is able to focus on the positives
and ensure that the working environment is conducive to all. A positive leader con-
tinuously builds positive structures through appointing the right talent, sharing the
organisational vision and goals, and focusing on organisational effectiveness (Gau-
thier, 2015). Despite that, Learmonth and Humphreys (2011) alluded that eliminating
the negative is risky, ﬁrstly because there is a possibility that what some people may
experience as negative others may perceive such as positive, and secondly, because
by so doing there is lack of acknowledgment that most people experience work as
negative and degrading. Additionally, Fineman (2006) states that exclusively focus-
ing on the positive epitomizes “a one-eyed view of the social world” (275), not only
that, but it also limits the opportunity to implement positive changes that usually
arise from negative experiences.
3.4.2 Building Positive Relationships Through Teamwork and Trust
A positive leader is regarded as a leader who can be trusted and is able to cultivate
trust among his/her employees (Liu et al., 2010; Zbierowski, 2014). Such a leader
also has the ability to develop positive relationships (Gauthier, 2015; Oades et al.,
2009) through teamwork and trust (Liu et al., 2010; Zbierowski, 2014). A positive
leader generally empowers (Wong & Cummings, 2007) and supports his/her employ-
ees (Lloyd & Atella, 2000; Wijewardena et al., 2014; Wong & Cummings, 2007)
to increase organisational citizenship behaviour, social well-being, individual and
organisational performance. All of this results in employees experiencing positive
emotions (Wijewardena et al., 2014).
3.4.3 Being Results Driven
Positive leaders are “results driven” in that they encourage outstanding performance
(Blanch et al., 2016; Wijewardena et al., 2014; Youssef & Luthans, 2012; Zbierowski,
2016). They also have high expectations of their employees (Gauthier, 2015; Hannah
et al., 2009), and encourage them to achieve organisational goals (Gauthier, 2015;
Hannah et al., 2009). A positive leader pursues success, continuously boosts and
develops employees’ strengths and potential, and generally recognises employees’
accomplishments (Antino et al., 2014; Arakawa & Greenberg, 2007; Blanch et al.,
2016; Tombaugh, 2005; Youssef & Luthans, 2012)—thereby promoting increased
employee engagement and productivity (Arakawa & Greenberg, 2007).
Positive Leadership: Moving Towards an Integrated … 213
3.4.4 Engaging in Positive Communications
Positive leaders generally communicate in an empowering and supportive manner
with their employees (Cameron, 2008). In particular, they could do so by show-
ing appreciation for good work, and by providing negative feedback constructively
(Davenport et al., 2016). They further adopt a two-way inclusive communication
approach in which they involve employees in the processes of decision making and
problem solving (Davenport et al., 2016).
3.5 Leadership Outcomes
In the literature, positive leadership is associated with a number of leadership out-
comes. The three main themes that emerged in this regard centre on employee well-
being, increased organisational performance and productivity, and increased organ-
isational citizenship behaviour.
3.5.1 Employee Well-Being
Positive leaders, via their leadership traits and leadership behaviours, are reported to
have an impact in terms of increased employee engagement (Arakawa & Greenberg,
2007), increased employee social well-being (Wijewardena et al., 2014), increased
employee trust (Liu et al., 2010), and increased employee commitment (Liu et al.,
2010; Lloyd & Atella, 2000). All these constructs can contribute to employee well-
ness. When employees regard their leaders as positive leaders, they experience pos-
itive emotions at work (Kelloway et al., 2013; Wijewardena et al., 2014). Lastly,
positive leaders have the ability to keep their employees happy (Gauthier, 2015).
Thus, by appointing positive leaders, organisations contribute towards the overall
well-being of employees.
3.5.2 Increased Individual Performance and Organisational
Positive leadership traits such as optimism and a ‘can-do’ mind-set, motivational
characteristics, and an ethical orientation have been reported to result in increased
individual and organisational performance (Smith et al., 2012; Wijewardena et al.,
2014), and positive leadership behaviours such as being results driven and creating
positive work environment also result in increased employee productivity (Arakawa
& Greenberg, 2007; Gauthier, 2015). This means that organisations that appoint
positive leaders will likely experience an increase in employee performance and
organisational productivity levels.
214 K. S. Malinga et al.
3.5.3 Organisational Citizenship Behaviour
Research shows that positive leadership traits such as an ethical orientation, as well
as positive leadership behaviour such as creating a positive work environment, result
in increased organisational citizenship behaviour (Wijewardena et al., 2014). This
means that employees who regard their leaders as positive leaders are more likely to
relate to the organisation, and they tend to be more likely to go the proverbial extra
mile for their organisation.
3.6 Developing an Integrated Conceptualization of Positive
Although many studies have examined positive leadership (Arakawa & Greenberg,
2007; Cameron, 2008,2013; Dutton & Spreitzer, 2014; Härtel et al., 2008; Kelloway
et al., 2013; Nel et al., 2015; Salmi, Perttula, & Syväjärv 2014; Wijewardena et al.,
2014; Youssef-Morgan & Luthans, 2013; Zbierowski & Góra, 2014), and although
most leadership theories such as authentic leadership and transformational leadership
are positively oriented (Youssef-Morgan & Lthans, 2013), there still exists much con-
fusion and varied opinions regarding the nature of the construct of positive leadership
in the literature.
Compounding this situation even more, no reviews aiming to investigate and
provide an integrated deﬁnition of positive leadership could be found. Moreover, the
lack of a clear conceptualisation of this construct adversely affects any efforts aimed
at operationalising it. This in turn undermines any attempts at empirically measuring
and comparing positive leadership, given that such measurements are often derived
from differing (and therefore non-comparable) conceptualisations.
By proposing an integrated deﬁnition of positive leadership, it is hoped that this
will support efforts to operationalise positive leadership and develop a measurement
tool for positive leadership. Based on the themes identiﬁed via the thematic analysis
of available literature on the subject, the following integrated deﬁnition of positive
leadership is proposed:
Positive leadership is an approach towards leadership that is characterised by the
demonstration of leadership traits such as optimism and a ‘can-do’ mind-set, altru-
ism, an ethical orientation, and motivational characteristics, as well as leadership
behaviours that entail the creation of a positive working environment, the develop-
ment of positive relationships, a focus on results, and positive communication with
employees. These traits and behaviours in turn result in positive leadership outcomes
such as enhanced overall productivity and performance levels, improved organisa-
tional citizenship behaviour, and enhanced employee well-being.
From the above proposed integrated deﬁnition of positive leadership it can be
noted that positive leadership is indeed a combination of a number of other leadership
styles such as transformational (Bass, 1999; Braun, Pues, Weisweiler, & Frey, 2013;
Positive Leadership: Moving Towards an Integrated … 215
Crafford et al., 2006; Munir, Rahman, Malik, & Ma’Amor, 2012;Tsai,2011; Weberg,
2010); ethical (Ahmad, Gao, & Hali, 2017; Moorhouse, 2002); servant (Russel &
Stone, 2002; Van Dierendonck, 2011); empowering (Albrecht & Andreetta, 2011;
Arnold, Arad, Rhoades, & Drasgow, 2000; Hakimi, Van Knippenberg, & Giessner,
2010; Konczak, Stelly, & Trusty, 2000); and authentic leadership (Avolio & Gardner,
2005; Avolio, Gardner, Walumbwa, Luthans, & May, 2004; Walumbwa, Avolio,
Gardner, Wernsing, & Peterson, 2008). Positive leadership also employs a strength
based approach as well as empowering leader behaviours (Konczak et al., 2000).
According to Liu et al. (2010), transformational leadership is the closest leader-
ship style to positive leadership. Burns (1978) described transformational leadership
as “an ongoing process whereby leaders and followers raise one another to higher
levels of morality and motivation beyond self-interest to serve collective interests”
(p. 20). Positive leadership is similar to transformational leadership in the sense that
both types of leaders inspire and motivate employees in achieving organisational
goals and in performing exceptionally; and they also invest energy in employees’
development and growth (Crafford et al., 2006). The distinction between positive
leadership and transformational leadership is that positive leaders are ethically ori-
ented over and above being transformational, whereas transformational leaders have
the ability to transform their employees yet may be perceived as abusive towards
their employees and may even act in unethical manner (Bass & Steidlmeirer, 1999;
Conger & Kanungo, 1988; Hoch, Bommer, Dulebohn, & Wu, 2018).
Brown, Treviño, and Harrison ( 2005) deﬁned ethical leadership as “the demonstra-
tion of normatively appropriate conduct through personal actions and interpersonal
relationships, and the promotion of such conduct to followers through two-way com-
munication, reinforcement, and decision-making” (p. 120). Ethical leadership and
positive leadership are similar in a way that both leadership styles encourage two-
way communication among employees and strives to involve employees in decision
making. Ethical leaders strive to do the right thing and to act in an ethical manner at all
times as with positive leaders, however ethical leaders are not necessarily authentic
compared to positive leaders (Brown & Treviño, 2006).
According to Greenleaf (1970) servant leadership “focuses on putting the needs of
the followers and stakeholders ﬁrst” (p. 13). Servant leadership suggests that overall
organisational goals will be achieved by ﬁrstly facilitating the needs, development
and well-being of followers (Hoch et al., 2018). Positive leadership is also similar to
ethical and servant leadership as some of the traits identiﬁed in positive leadership
include that of being ethical and altruistic, whereby the positive leader is perceived
as being fair towards his/her employees and tends to put the needs of others before
his/her own needs (De Cremer et al., 2004). Both servant and positive leaders inspire
their employees, however the difference lies in their primary focus. Servant leaders’
primary focus is on employees whereas positive leaders’ primary focus is that of
achieving organisational goals as well as inspiring, motivating, and encouraging
employees towards achieving those organisational goals (Stone, Russell, & Patterson,
Lastly, authentic leaders are deﬁned as “those leaders who are deeply aware of
how they think and behave and are perceived by others as being aware of their own
216 K. S. Malinga et al.
and others’ values/moral perspectives, knowledge, and strengths; aware of the con-
text in which they operate; and who are conﬁdent, hopeful, optimistic, resilient, and
of high moral character” (Avolio et al., 2004, p. 802). Similar to an authentic leader,
a positive leader utilises empowering leader behaviours and continuously identiﬁes,
develops and utilises employee strengths and potential in achieving organisational
goals. Authentic leadership is positively oriented but not identical to positive leader-
ship because both positive leaders and authentic leaders are optimistic and hopeful
about the future, yet authentic leaders maybe authentic and not necessarily trans-
formational (Avolio et al., 2004), whereas, positive leaders are ethically oriented,
authentic and transformational. Whilst authentic leaders are genuine (and thus not
always necessarily positive), one critique of positive leaders is that focusing on too
much positivity might have a negative effect on relationships (Gottman & Levenson,
1992). In particular, when a leader is too positive in their interaction with the employ-
ees, the employees might perceive their leader as not genuine in their communication
and might have difﬁculty in trusting what their leader say (Gauthier, 2015; Gottman
& Levenson, 1992).
Although existing deﬁnitions of positive leadership do not explicitly state that
authentic leadership traits such as self-awareness, authenticity and genuineness
(Walumbwa et al., 2008) are important for positive leadership, it is nonetheless
implied via the other traits (such as ethical orientation, motivational characteristics
and altruism) that a positive leader is supposed to possess. Notably, positive leader-
ship is a combination of the abovementioned positive forms of leadership.
The deﬁnition of positive leadership proposed in this chapter addresses a gap in the
current literature, and it is hoped that this will contribute to an enhanced and integrated
conceptualisation of positive leadership. Previous research highlighted that there is
a lack of contributions in relation to the acceleration, emergence and development
of positive leadership (Blanch et al., 2016; Zbierowski, 2016), as well as to how
positive leadership should be measured (Antino et al., 2014). The proposed integrated
deﬁnition of positive leadership provides a basis for clearer operationalisation, which
would consequently make it possible to draw comparisons between different studies.
It is recommended that the proposed integrated deﬁnition of positive leadership be
operationalised and used as a basis for studying and developing positive leadership
in organisations. Finally, it is also hoped that this conceptualization will serve as
basis for informing and for developing interventions aimed at enhancing positive
leadership. As a ﬁrst step towards the latter end, the chapter is concluded with a
discussion of three positive interventions based on the integrated conceptualization
of positive leadership.
4 Positive Interventions
Based on the model depicted in Fig. 2one can deduce that various existing positive
interventions will be applicable to positive leadership development. Potential positive
interventions include: Developing leaders’ and employees’ Psychological Capital,
Positive Leadership: Moving Towards an Integrated … 217
that is creating hope, resilience, optimism and self-efﬁcacy as leadership traits and
behaviour; developing leader’s emotional maturity (or Emotional Intelligence) as a
characteristic of successful and positive leaders; focusing on job crafting; creating
meaning; building trust; using humour in the workplace; empowerment; applying
mindfulness, and improving cultural sensitivity training can all be optimised as pos-
itive interventions to create a culture where a more positive approach to leadership
For the purpose of this chapter we will provide a brief and broad general outline of
three interventions that may contribute to creating a positive culture whilst simultane-
ously contributing to improved business results: Developing the leader as optimizer
of potential; strengths-based expectations and encouragement, and developing the
leader as a team developer.
4.1 Developing the Leader as Optimizer of Potential (The
Manager as Coach)
Within a volatile and uncertain business world there is a strong business case for
developing positive leaders. Chamorro-Premuzic, Adler and Kaiser (2017) postu-
late that investing in the people meeting organisational demands will maximize
business returns. One way of having competent people is to develop them. Vari-
ous studies have identiﬁed people development as a core competence of leaders,
now and in future (Ellinger, 2013; Giles, 2016; Zenger & Folkman, 2014). Stander,
van Dyk and Stander’s (2018) research indicated that there are signiﬁcant relation-
ships between employees’ perceptions of their manager as coach, work engagement,
subjective well-being, performance and employee’s intention to stay with the organ-
isation (which are all outcomes of positive leadership). According to Fig. 2Positive
leaders typically create a safe, trusting environment where employees have a sense of
belonging, can be empowered, and experience engaging interactions while driving
for results. These are all elements of coaching and people development, reinforcing
the importance of the positive leader to be competent and passionate about people
development. However, an important stumbling block in the way of achieving these
aims is managers’ competence in developing people. Despite the fact that it holds
a lot of promise as a strategy for supporting positive leadership, it is the author’s
experience that coaching and developing people are activities that a high percentage
of managers feel uncomfortable with, which is compounded by the fact that they typ-
ically have very little formal training in developing people. Based on several decades
of exposure to the industry in various capacities, the second author’s experience is that
managers are well aware of this competence gap and more than willing to address it.
We would propose that organisations seeking to enhance positive leadership should
train their managers to master a coaching model.
The GROW model (Whitmore, 2009) is a very popular example of such a model,
and is relatively easy to understand and apply. The model could be applied (coach the
218 K. S. Malinga et al.
coach) on positive leader behaviours like creating a positive environment, building
positive relationships; managing for results and applying engaging communication.
The coaching can be structured according to identifying and prioritising speciﬁc out-
comes or goals (G), assessing the existing situation or reality in terms of obstacles, as
well as existing and required resources related to the goal (R), exploring possibilities
and various alternative strategies and options to achieve goals (O) and get partici-
pant to commit or exert their will in taking speciﬁc action steps as part of the way
Training in a speciﬁc model such as GROW should be further supported by
enhancing speciﬁc ancillary skills and attitudes. This could be gained by a com-
bination of class room training and a more on-the-job approach like coaching.
Steelman and Wolfeld (2018) mentioned that a manager-coach must be able to:
“evaluate patterns and trends in employee performance, create awareness through
ongoing feedback, provide learning experiences, allow opportunities for reﬂection
and assist in action planning and identifying critical steps to goal accomplishment”
(p. 42). Grant (2017) comments that leaders need to build a culture of quality con-
versations by means of workplace coaching. Steelman and Wolfeld (2018) referred
to three factors as being important in becoming a good manager-coach: Speciﬁc
behaviours needed to be a coach, creating positive relationships with direct reports,
and following a sound feedback process. These three factors can be a useful frame-
work to add to the training of a speciﬁc coaching model (such as GROW) to develop
managers as coaches.
4.1.1 Speciﬁc Behaviours Needed to Be an Optimizer of Potential
Hamlin, Ellinger and Beattie (2006) reported a summary of their research on coach-
ing behaviours between 1997–2004, and concluded that the following are some of the
behaviours needed: A questioning approach when discussing development needs and
interventions, being a resource of support and information for employees, transferring
ownership of tasks to direct reports, creating a learning environment, communicating
expectations, broadening employees’ perspectives, engaging with employees, caring,
informing, being professional, advising, reﬂective thinking, empowering, challeng-
ing, proactive management, supportive leadership, inclusive decision making, con-
sults widely and keeps people informed. A core behaviour of the modern manager as
coach is the ability to identify and focus on individual strengths (opposed to weak-
nesses) and to support the employee to optimise the use of these strengths (refer
to next section). Organisations can facilitate developing managers in the following
speciﬁc behaviours: Active listening, observation of behaviour, accurate responding,
honest value add feedback, setting clear expectations and communication, facilita-
tion, challenging thinking, removing obstacles, creating ownership and driving for
results. A combination between classroom education and practical coaching in spe-
ciﬁc behaviours and competencies are proposed.
Positive Leadership: Moving Towards an Integrated … 219
4.1.2 Leaders’ Positive Relationship with Employees
Gregory and Levy (2010) identiﬁed four dimensions for a high quality coaching
relationship: Genuineness, effective communication, comfort with relationship, and
facilitating development. According to Grant, Passmore, Michael, and Parker (2010),
the presence of integrity, trust, genuine interest, clear intent, commitment and sup-
port for employees’ development from their coaches intensiﬁed coachees’ growth
experiences. Grant (2014) is of the opinion that commitment, trust, and respect create
feelings of understanding that are important for the development of quality coaching
relationships. Ellinger (2013) adds to this that a good manager-coach also has the
conﬁdence needed to share experiences and skills with direct reports. Kim and Kuo
(2015) stated that a manager’s trustworthiness can be a critical element to estab-
lish an effective relationship between manager and employee. They further reported
that employees who received coaching had more trust in their managers. Training in
emotional intelligence to improve relationships, supported with workplace coaching
and mentoring can be valuable for managers to create positive relationships.
4.1.3 Following a Sound Feedback Process
Mann and Wigert (2018) report that recent Gallup research found that only 25% of
employees strongly agree that their manager’s feedback is meaningful. It is expected
that managers should be able to give clear, direct feedback in a respectful manner.
Employees should be able to gain deeper insight into their own behaviour while the
coach facilitates plans of action for further development and growth. One can assume
that a positive leader will empower or create a psychological safe environment where
the employee will be willing to ask for feedback. Steelman, Levy and Snell (2004)
identiﬁed seven dimensions that will contribute to favourable feedback environment:
Manager credibility, quality of feedback, feedback delivery, promotion of feedback
seeking, frequency of favourable feedback, frequency of unfavourable feedback and
manager availability” (p. 173). Speciﬁc training programs, for example conducting
crucial conversations, are available to enhance feedback skills and creating a healthy
Cilliers (2011) found improved intrapersonal awareness, openness to emotional
experiences, and the ability to express needs and feelings as some of the out-
comes of positive psychology leadership coaching. Organisations can add to this
improved intrapersonal functioning training and development according to the above
behavioural criteria. These interventions will contribute to enhanced employee well-
being, increased individual and organisational performance, as well as increased
organisational citizenship behaviour. It is important to note that developing the leader
as coach holds deﬁnite advantages for the company, employees as well as for the
leader. Another approach that a leader can adopt is that of encouraging the employees
and focusing on the strengths-based expectations of employees.
220 K. S. Malinga et al.
4.2 Strengths-Based Expectations and Encouragement
A major theme that emerged from the literature is that positive leaders are able
to strike a balance between having high expectations of employees and simultane-
ously providing them with ample encouragement in a way that facilitates outstanding
employee performance (e.g. Arakawa & Greenberg, 2007). However, it would appear
that successful positive leaders would generally approach these tasks idiosyncrati-
cally in accordance with their own individual natures, which may result in greatly
varying or inconsistent outcomes. However, drawing on the strengths-based approach
that is proposed within the context of Positive Psychology (e.g. Magyar-Moe, 2009;
Rashid, 2008; Seligman, 2011; Wong, 2006), we propose a more structured and
systematic approach to positive leadership-related expectations and encouragement
that holds the prospect of being able to produce results in a more consistent and
replicable manner. As an intervention, this strategy entails the positive leader identi-
fying individual employee strengths and then tailoring both expectations as well as
encouragement to these strengths, as opposed to a more generic proverbial ‘gunshot’
approach where similar expectations and methods of encouragement exist for all
In brief, this process involves the following steps:
•In collaboration with the positive leader, each employee’s signature strengths and
preferences are identiﬁed, using freely available online instruments such as the Val-
ues in Action survey (VIA) (Peterson & Seligman, 2003), or the Gallup Strengths-
Finder (Rath & Conchie, 2008), MBTI or- Team Management Proﬁle (Margerison
& McCann, 1990). Another possibility is to assess the employee against a com-
petency proﬁle in an interview, a 360° assessment or a development centre. The
initial report would ideally be discussed among the manager and employee, and
agreed adjustments and revisions of the report could be made until the report is
deemed by both parties to adequately reﬂect the employee’s signature strengths.
As an illustrative example, a given employee might be identiﬁed as having the
VIA strength of bravery.
•The leader subsequently adjusts his or her expectations of the employee in accor-
dance with each’s unique strengths and the speciﬁc business context the employee
is operating in. This process could also be utilised to support role clariﬁcation,
which has in itself been found to be associated with increased employee per-
formance, reduced levels of stress and anxiety, reduced employee turnover etc.
(Forsyth, 2014). In the context of this positive leadership intervention, the leader
goes beyond the very important fundamental step of clarifying role expectations
(Schmidt, Roesler, Kusserow, & Rau, 2014) by actively augmenting this process
with a strengths based approach. In a related fashion, expected end-results can be
formulated and organisational tasks be allocated to different employees (with the
implicit attendant expectations that these be fulﬁlled to a high standard of perfor-
mance) on the basis of their strengths. Taking the previous example, the employee
with the strength of bravery could be allocated a task involving a calculated risk
Positive Leadership: Moving Towards an Integrated … 221
or courage, such as approaching a potential new high-value client and conducting
•The leader provides encouragement to each employee in a manner that is congruent
with the employee’s individual strength proﬁle. For instance, the brave employee
could be encouraged using arguments, phrases or a general approach that evoke
or call upon his strength of bravery. It is recommended that during this process
the leader and employee explore ways to optimize strengths to address areas of
•Through a process of continual monitoring and feedback this process is adjusted as
necessary. Doing so will also address the commonly identiﬁed need of employees
to interact more with leaders. In turn, this interaction with the leader will play a
further developmental role.
•The employee could be encouraged to use these strengths to develop his/her own
identity and promote his/her own personal brand within the organisation.
•By adjusting expectations and encouragement to the speciﬁc signature strengths of
each employee, a far greater likelihood exists that such expectations and encour-
agement would indeed be experienced as motivational and consequently result
in effective and positive outcomes for not only the organisation as a whole, but
also for the employee. Given that this approach prompts employees to act in ways
that draw upon their signature strengths, and also that such an approach has been
shown to be related to enhanced psychological well-being (Magyar-Moe, 2009;
Seligman, 2011), it is likely that outcomes such as enhanced employee engage-
ment, well-being, positive emotions and trust would follow to some degree when
this approach is adopted. Lastly, the leader can adopt the approach of being a
leader as a team developer.
4.3 Leader as a Team Developer
The ﬁnal intervention that is outlined in this chapter is that of a Positive Leader
as a team developer. The literature shows that a positive leader is one who is able
to promote positive relationship among employees through developing trust and
teamwork (Liu et al., 2010; Zbierowski, 2014). Bligh (2017) deﬁned trust as “an
expectation or belief that one can rely on another person’s actions and words and
that the person has good intentions to carry out their promises” (p. 21). The question
that might be asked is how can a Positive Leader develop trust within his or her team?
Trust may be developed by being ethical, honest, transparent, and having integrity
(Antino et al., 2014; Zbierowski, 2016). Below we propose steps that a positive leader
may follow in building trust amongst the team members.
Employees will trust their leader if they feel that their leader takes time to build
relationships with them and get to know them by implementing an open door policy,
as well as investing in informal sessions with their team members such as coffee time,
team building activities, social gathering or monthly breakfast away from the ofﬁce.
As proposed by Lencioni (2003), the ﬁrst step in building trust requires the leader
222 K. S. Malinga et al.
to set an example by ﬁrst opening up to his or her team members before expecting
the team members to open up to him or her. One practical example of opening up
to employees may be that of the leader sharing their work and life story with them
or something that their employees may not know about them. This way the leaders
allow themselves to be open and comfortable around their employees, which in turn,
will make their employees feel safe and comfortable with opening up to their leader
(Dirks & Ferrin, 2002; McManus & Mosca, 2015).
Once the team members and their leader are able to be open and comfortable
around one another, the leader should empower their employees by allowing them
the opportunity to make decisions in the area of their expertise, and to trust them
enough that they will do their jobs effectively without being micromanaged. With that
being said, a leader needs to know their employees well enough to know which strat-
egy to use when managing them. A positive leader is capable of acknowledging that
micromanaging employee “A” might be appreciated, but that employee “B” might
feel that they do not need to be reminded of their work and that they would rather
prefer being given autonomy when performing their work. The leader may utilise
the Team Management Proﬁle (Margerison & McCann, 1990) or MBTI assessment
(Briggs & Briggs Meyers, 2015) in establishing employee’s preferences and under-
standing the differences among his or her employees’ preferences. For an example
employee “A” might prefer more structure and clear deadlines when given a task,
whereas employee “B” might prefer less structure when given a task. Being aware
of these differences and preferences will help a leader in empowering his or her
The leader as a team developer will need to emphasise collaboration among
employees and encourage employees to support one another. Being aware of the
employees’ preferences through the use of MBTI or Team Management Proﬁle may
help the leader in grouping together the employees who have opposite preferences
to collaborate and support one another. In this way the team members will be able to
trust one another and their leader, as well as work together and support one another.
According to Lencioni (2003) once the trust has been developed, the team members
will be inclined to engage in constructive conﬂict; will be committed to the organ-
isation; will take accountability for their action; and will be results-oriented. All of
which cannot be achieved if trust is not developed amongst team members.
A leader as a team developer should inspire and motivate employees, provide
support and empower employees, all of which will lead to increased employee per-
formance (Smith et al., 2012), as depicted in Fig. 2.
This chapter outlined the ﬁndings derived from a critical review of the positive lead-
ership literature which was informed by the aim of creating an integrated deﬁnition
of positive leadership. The ﬁndings suggest that positive leadership consists of lead-
ership traits (optimism and a ‘can-do’ mind-set, altruism, an ethical orientation, and
Positive Leadership: Moving Towards an Integrated … 223
motivational characteristics); that a positive leader should possess, as well as spe-
ciﬁc leadership behaviours (creating a positive working environment, developing
positive relationships, focusing on results, and engaging in positive communication
with employees); and that these behaviours will in turn enhance certain leadership
outcomes (such as enhanced overall productivity and performance levels, improved
organisational citizenship behaviour, and enhanced employee well-being) that are
beneﬁcial to the leader, his/her employees and the organisation as a whole.
It is hoped that the proposed integrated deﬁnition of positive leadership could be
used as the starting point to develop a valid and reliable measure of positive leadership
in an organisational context. This deﬁnition was also used as basis for proposing
three general positive leadership interventions that leaders can adopt which will be
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Kgomotso Silvia Malinga has spent a signiﬁcant part of her career working as a Human
Resources consultant within the chemical industry. She’s currently lecturing Industrial Psychology
and Human Resources Management at North West University on undergraduate and postgraduate
level. She holds an M.A. Degree in IOP (NWU), M.Comm. Degree in IOP (UNISA), Hons Degree
in IOP (NWU), a B.A. Degree in Behavioural sciences (NWU) (cum laude) and a PGDIP in Man-
agement with Business Administration (NWU Business School) (cum laude). Coaching and devel-
oping the organisation and its people has always been her passion. Her areas of expertise include
positive leadership, talent management, people development, organisational restructuring, psycho-
metric assessments, coaching, and lecturing.
Marius Stander is a professor and a management consultant specializing in the assessment and
optimization of talented people and teams. He has been lecturing Industrial Psychology on post
graduate level at the Potchefstroom University, North-West University (Potchefstroom and Vaal
Triangle campus) as well as UJ (previously RAU) and the University of Namibia. He studied at
the University of Potchefstroom and North-West University and holds a M.Com. (cum laude) and
Ph.D. in Industrial Psychology. Previously he was GM of an outsourcing company for two years.
He is currently the co-managing director of Psychai Management Consultants. He is a registered
Industrial Psychologist (HPCSA), Mentor and a Master HR Practitioner (SABPP). He has been
consulting in South Africa and Namibia for various companies and local authorities over the past
28 years. His ﬁelds of expertise include: talent management, assessment of potential, leadership
development, team building and coaching psychology.
Wer ne r Ne ll started his academic career as a student assistant in the Sociology department in
1996, and is currently an Associate Professor in the School of Social Sciences at the North-West
University. Werner obtained his Ph.D. in Sociology in 2005 at the NWU, and completed a Mas-
ter’s degree in Positive Psychology at the same institution in 2014. His main research ﬁeld is the
study of psycho-social well-being, especially in relation to religion and spirituality, as well as the
natural environment. He is particularly interested in the ways in which various aspects of individ-
ual and communal human well-being (such as subjective well-being, hope, meaning in life, etc.)
are impacted by and related to religion, spirituality and the environment.