How resilient leaders use positive emotions during organisational turbulence

people-690105_1920 no attributionThe pace of change seems faster than ever before. Many organisations have multiple change initiatives on the go at the same time, while still trying to maintain “business as usual”.

Senior and middle-level leaders are expected to enthusiastically drive these initiatives, while coping well themselves. If however they are over-stressed and change-weary, then the success of the change initiatives is at risk.

The way leaders cope and deal with their own emotions directly impacts on the emotions of their team members. Their optimism or pessimism is contagious and spreads like a ’flu virus from one team member to another.

When leaders are at their best, they keep stress positive, bounce back from adversity and recover well. Their resilience and positive emotions influence the people around them, who in turn find it easier to be more positive.

Positive emotions are the magic ingredient to cope during adversity

Positive emotions, according to researcher Barbara Frederickson, broaden people’s mind-sets to enable discovery of new ideas and take innovative action. They increase in our personal resources and capabilities that can be called upon later in difficult times. They help us:

·         Increase our general awareness.

·         Be more creative.

·         Make better decisions.

·         Be more trusting and open.

·         Enhance our cardiovascular ability to recover from stress.

·         Improve school academic results.

But wait there’s more! Not only broadening thinking and building psychological resources, positive emotions also trigger further upward spirals of enhanced well-being.

In other words, feeling good enables you to cope today and function better tomorrow.

Should leaders pretend to be positive, even when they aren’t?

As a leader, trying to be positive when you aren’t is usually not very successful. That’s because if the little voice in the back of your head says: “You are such a fraud”, you simply can’t fool yourself. When you feel insincere, it’s usually obvious to others who will see you as being false. So the strategy of “fake it till you make it” just doesn’t work.

To change your feelings, change with your thinking

When you’re feeling overly negative, and want to be more positive, change your thinking.

Our feelings come from the way we experience and interpret the world — through our thoughts. Ask yourself if the way you thinking is serving you well. In other words, are you feeling good about yourself and happy? If not, you can change your thoughts by:

·         Letting go of over-thinking about misfortune in the past

·         Trying to think only about those things that you can change.

·         Finding some good in the present, particularly during difficult times.

·         Striving to be curious, kind, grateful, involving others and most of all, being authentic.

When you change your thoughts, you change your mind. When you change your mind, you change your perspective. A positive perspective will create genuine positive emotions. These positive emotions will become the foundation for you to cope with adversity.

How resilient leaders influence with positive emotions

Here are four actions to provide powerful positive emotional leadership during organisational upheaval and turbulence:

1.   Show compassion

There is always some pain in organisations. Team members want leaders who care.

You can do this by showing appropriate concern and compassion. (More here)

2.   Express gratitude

Giving recognition and expressing personal gratitude is the mark of a powerful leader. Team members want leaders who recognise and appreciate their best efforts.

You can do this by giving public recognition and by writing short, private “thank you” notes to deserving people.

3.   Change their thinking

When your team members’ thinking becomes overly negative, help them to reframe restructure their thinking to be realistically positive:

You can do this by using these three powerful questions (More here):

a.    How can we come to terms with what has happened and accept it?

b.    What can we learn from it?

c.    Is there an opportunity for us to take action to move forward?

4.   Model being realistically positive and optimistic

Use the power of your leadership role to influence your team members by modelling the behaviour you would like them to display.

You can do this by telling stories reflecting on past difficulties and how you and the team got through them. Also, realistically interpret present difficulties as having limited impact and short duration. (More here)

Using positive emotional leadership

Your positive emotional leadership will help your team members cope better with unsettling change and be more resilient. Not only well everyone feel better, but everyone will work better too.

This will substantially increase the probability of success of your change initiatives.

Would your positive emotional leadership help your teams?


A photo by Priscilla Westra. the Dark Side of Greatness

There is a dark side when the success achieved at work comes at a significant cost. You end up sacrificing your soul and not being the loving partner and parent you would like to be. Discover how to use your strengths without self-sabotage, enhance your energy reserves and  minimize the impact of your stress triggers (read more here)

Resilient Leadership WorkshopResilient Leadership Workshop
Leaders learn how to keep stress positive. They assess their Team Members strategy-fitness and learn three resilience coaching techniques. The outcome is the leaders are better able to deliver organisational strategy and coach their team members when their resilience lags (read more here).

Building Resilience workshopBuilding Resilience Workshop

Team members and specialists learn how to bounce back from difficult organisation and life events, such as significant change, setbacks and hardship. The outcome is they are able to resist stressful experiences impacting on their job productivity and stay calm and healthy (read more here).

Mental Strength training

Mental Strength Training

Mental Strength training helps people keep task-focused and persistent. Mental Strength training teaches the process and tools to remain composed under pressure and less vulnerable to emotional slumps at work and at home (read more here).