social transformation is taking place in organizations worldwide. Leadership practices are moving from authoritarian to collaborative, from fear-based to strength-based, and from “talking at” people to inquiry and dialogue “with” them.

Appreciative Leadership is the relational capacity to mobilize creative potential and turn it into positive power—to set in motion positive ripples of confidence, energy, enthusiasm, and performance—to make a positive difference in the world.

Embedded in this definition are four formative ideas that give meaning to Appreciative Leadership:

  1. It involves relational processes and practices through which people come together and make things happen collaboratively.
  2. It is a positive worldview, based on the belief that every person, team and organization has positive potential.
  3. It recognizes potential and seeks to turn it into positive power; that is life-affirming results.
  4. It creates waves of positive change rippling outward.

Together, these four ideals represent a paradigm shift in leadership; a clear movement away from habitual, traditional and individualistic command and control practices, toward a new normal that can help you get the results you want. The premise of Appreciative Leadership is simple, yet profound. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong in the workplace, learn about and build upon what works.

*Adapted from Appreciative Leadership: Focus on What Works to Drive Winning Performance and Build a Thriving Organization, Diana Whitney, Amanda Trosten-Bloom and Kae Rader, 2010.

Appreciative Leadership Book
Appreciative Leadership Book

Five Strategies of Appreciative Leadership

Through our research on Appreciative Leadership and positive power, we have identified five areas of relational practice—what we call the Five Strategies of Appreciative Leadership. Each of the Five Strategies meets a different need that people have for high performance:

  • to know they belong;
  • to feel valued for what they have to contribute;
  • to know where the organization or community is headed;
  • to know that excellence is expected and can be depended on; and
  • to know that they are contributing to the greater good.

Inquiry lets people know that you value them and their contributions. When you ask people to share their thoughts and feelings— their stories of success or ideas for the future—and you sincerely listen to what they have to say, you are telling them, “I value you and your thinking.”

Illumination helps people understand how they can best contribute. Through the practices of illumination you can help people learn about their strengths and the strengths of others. You can give them confidence and encouragement to express themselves, take risks, and support others in working from their strengths.

Inclusion gives people a sense of belonging. When you practice inclusion, you open the door for collaboration and co-creation. This, in turn, creates an environment in which people feel they are a part of something. When they feel part of something, they care for it.

Inspiration provides people with a sense of direction. By forging a vision and path forward, you give people hope and unleash energy. These are the foundations for transformation, innovation and sustainable high performance.

Integrity lets people know that they are expected to give their best for the great good, and that they can trust others to do the same.  When you lead with integrity, people know they can depend on you to connect them to the whole.  Your example sets a standard for others to follow.

*Adapted from Appreciative Leadership: Focus on What Works to Drive Winning Performance and Build a Thriving Organization, Diana Whitney, Amanda Trosten-Bloom and Kae Rader, 2010.