6 Reasons You Should Try Appreciative Leadership

Management, Supervisory and Leadership - © Performance Management Consultants

Leading is a management technique, a pattern of behaviour that integrates organizational requirements with personal interests. Leading defines not just a direction but an objective.  Leading requires abilities, skills, and strategies that can – with practice and persistence – be developed and improved.

Leaders must possess – and model – integrity, honesty, and trustworthiness.  Teams whose members do not trust each other and their leaders cannot collaborate effectively.

Effective leaders accomplish great things not by their own actions but through their influence on the people who follow them. They are transactional leaders, changing minds in a quiet huddle. And they are – at the same time – transformational leaders, creating change from the head of the parade.

Leading is easy when things go smoothly. But when obstacles appear or conflicts arise, members of a team are more likely to support and follow a leader they believe to be capable and trustworthy. Of course, a gifted leader and manager may make navigating tough times appear deceptively easy. The best performance managers may never seem to manage performance.

A leader never stops planning, and is always ready to modify or abandon a plan that has served its purpose. Leaders inspire their teams not simply by having a vision but by sharing that vision.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI)

Professor David L. Cooperrider of Case Western Reserve University says that AI is about changing attitudes, behaviours, and practices through appreciative conversations and relationships. These interactions will help team members so that they can imagine and jointly create a better future.

AI is about constructing a shared future and enacting human systems by asking the right questions.  It is also about anticipatory learning – finding those images of the future that draw us to them.  As Peter Drucker said, more than 6o years ago:

“The ageless essence of leadership, is to create an alignment of strengths, in ways which make a system’s weaknesses irrelevant.”

AI is a philosophy that incorporates a process (a 4-D cycle of Discovery, Dream, Design and Destiny) that engages team members to create positive change – at small and large scales alike.

AI can be used in combination with other organizational processes, including:

  • Strategic planning
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Management development
  • Re-design of structures and systems
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Cultural transformation
  • Team building
  • Valuing diversity initiatives
  • Social and sustainable development issues
  • Leadership

AI is an exciting way to embrace organizational change. Cooperrider says its basic assumption is simple:

“Every organization has something which works right – things which give it life when it is most alive, effective, successful, and connected in healthy ways to its team members, stakeholders and communities. AI begins by identifying what is positive, and connecting to it in ways which heighten energy, vision, and action for change.”

AI is a simple, powerful approach to engaging all levels of an organization in a change initiative. Many organizations have used collaborative inquiry to co-create whole system approaches that:

  • create a common vision and strategy
  • accelerate organizational learning – speeding the spread of innovation, and amplifying the power of even the smallest victories
  • foster labour and management collaboration
  • create dialogue that fosters shared meaning
  • improve internal and external communications
  • strengthen implementation of information technology initiatives
  • work toward sustainability
  • create trust among team members, stakeholders and clients
  • build high-performance teams to facilitate change

Appreciative Leadership

Diana Witney, Founder and Director of the Taos Institute, identified the Five Strategies of Appreciative Leadership.  Each meets a different need that members of high-performance teams share:

  • to know they belong
  • to feel their contribution is valued
  • to know where their organization or community is headed
  • to understand that excellence is expected of them
  • to know that they are contributing to the greater good

The 5 I’s…

Inquiry requires managers and supervisors to ask their teams to share their thoughts and feelings, and to listen to what the teams say. This carries a clear message: “We value you and your thinking.”

Illumination helps team members understand strengths – their own and their team-mates’. Managers and supervisors can give their teams the confidence to express themselves, take risks, and support others.

Inclusion gives team members a sense of ownership.  When managers and supervisors practice inclusion, they open the door for collaboration and co-creation.

Inspiration provides team members with a sense of direction.  By forging a vision, managers and supervisors create the foundations for transformation, innovation and sustainable high performance.

Integrity tells team members what is expected of them, and what they can expect of each other.  When managers and supervisors lead with integrity, they create a standard for the team.

Appreciative Leaders…

  • Can be found in every walk of life and in every sort of enterprise
  • Hold everyone in high regard
  • Look through appreciative eyes to see the best in people
  • Treat everyone with respect and dignity
  • Believe everyone has potential
  • Believe everyone has strengths and a need to be fulfilled
  • Find and nurture those strengths

Appreciative Leadership…

  • Can turn creative potential into positive power
  • Creates ripples of confidence, energy, enthusiasm and performance that improve the world. Is a set of strategies and related practices that makes things happen
  • Assumes that each person has an innate source of goodness and potential awaiting recognition and realization
  • Senses potential and turns it into life-affirming results
  • Sees potential in people and situations when others do not
  • Sees potential and shows positive power, even in distressing situations

6 Reasons Why Appreciative Leadership Works

  • It lets team members get to know each other in relationships rather than roles
  • It allows team members to be heard
  • It encourages team members to dream, and to share those dreams
  • It lets team members choose how they contribute
  • It gives team members autonomy and support
  • It encourages positive change

Whitney says organizations that master Appreciative Leadership let managers, supervisors and team members discover and cultivate their unique leadership values and strengths, and to apply those qualities with integrity, in order to create a world which works for us all.

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