Positive Leadership: Strategies for Extraordinary Performance
By Kim S. Cameron
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2008
In this engaging and compact book, author Kim Cameron places leadership in an expansive and optimistic framework. His views are straightforward, carefully documented, easy to read, and ready to put into practice. In the best spirit of evidence-based management, Cameron builds on extensive research; however, he goes beyond anecdotes to formulate the principals and practice of a kind of leadership that is exceptional.
One of my early mentors used to ask: If common sense is so common, why do we not see more of it? Positive leadership would seem to make common sense; however, as Cameron points out, because negative consequences can often be devastating, “human beings have [frequently] learned to pay more attention to potential harm than to potential benefit.” Similarly, in organizational life, the popular but often implicit idea of management by exception is based on the principal of maintaining normative control by avoiding deviance either negative or positive. Cameron demonstrates that it is possible to qualitatively go beyond the traditional model to realize truly extraordinary results. He refers to this as “positively deviant performance.” Such performance is shaped by establishing conditions that enable everyone to perform at his or her best all of the time. Thus, to greatly exceed expectations, one must attend consciously, practice intentionally, and learn. This book provides a framework, examples, and suggested methods for doing just that.
Cameron’s model of the “four leadership strategies that enable positive deviance” includes: fostering a positive climate, developing positive relationships, engaging in positive communication, and reinforcing positive meanings. Some activities to implement these strategies include: expressing gratitude, building natural energy networks, using supportive communication, and connecting to personal values. He supports this model with a straightforward assessment questionnaire and a worksheet for implementation.
As innovation, knowledge work, and the stress of global competition become increasingly important features of exceptional organizations, the practice of positive leadership becomes especially relevant. This book is well-worth the quick read and can serve as a valued companion as you generate your own positively deviant performance.