Conference Paper: The Power In Being A Positive Leader

Authored by Jeanette Bordelon, PMP, MBA, Ernst & Young


You will find in most leadership books, among other things, that leader’s should always have a “positive” (mental) attitude. What does that really mean? Is it in “attitude” only or does it expand beyond attitude? How do you bring a “positive” attitude to life? How important is being positive?

In my personal journey over the past few years, I’ve begun to expand my awareness into an increased understanding of what “positive” really means and how it can affect and impact us, our teams, our company, our stakeholders and our success. This paper will expand on your understanding of both positive and negative from a scientific perspective in terms of energy and in practical application. In this case our “energy barometer” will be measured by our feelings and our intuition.

Increasing our understanding of how to channel and use the true power of positive energy opens the door to a happier work place, a more productive work place, and a healthier work place. This can also be used to make a big difference in our personal lives! We get what we ask for in life. Let’s learn how to better ask for what we want!

The Basics

Energy Beings

Science continues to provide evidence that the essence of our existence is based upon energy. Our molecular cell structure, the electrical charges of our brain that send signals throughout our bodies, our senses all receive signals through energy. Chinese acupuncture has identified a specific energy pathway for body healing. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s My Stoke of Insight video gives a graphic example of the energy of our minds between the left – logic structured brain and the right – creative/open/un-restricted brain. (I highly recommend that everyone watch this video!)

Our memories that are created from stored energy are amplified when we add feelings and emotion to the mixture. When you smell freshly baked cookies, for example, a happy childhood memory may instantly pop into your consciousness. When that happens, you may begin to change your demeanor, become more relaxed and open in conversation.

Now when something occurs that triggers an unhappy memory that also has intense feelings and emotion attached to that memory, you mind has placed you mentally right back in that time and place. You may then begin to become moody, angry, tense, and have a sharp tongue, etc.

Most of us really don’t understand how much of an energy being we are. We need to understand how to control our “energy” thoughts that then impact our body reaction and can overwhelm or hide our intuition. Our challenge is to understand how to control our mind (left and right), our body, and pay more attention to our intuition.

Positive versus Negative and the Flow of Energy

Our minds are continuously bombarded with varied thoughts (flows of energy) which we can choose to listen to and act upon or let pass by without any acknowledgement. For the most part they are either positive or negative and at times they may be neutral. Like water or air, these energy flows can move quickly and easily.

Should we identify and clear away a path for them they continue on their way creating more of the same. We may decide to increase the flow by adding “like-kind” emotion to the energy. If somehow we “break” the flow, we create “churn” or “stuck energy”. If you happen to be on a “positive energy” flow and you “break” the flow, this stuck energy can bring everything to a standstill until the different energies can be sorted out. If you happen to be on a “negative energy” flow and you “break” the flow, you stop destructive energy before it has a chance to build and sabotage your efforts.

There is another aspect of energy. When you have a positive flow, you are feeling happier, more open and calm (or excited). There is more oxygen flowing through the blood to the brain supporting strong thinking and decision making. However, when you have a negative flow, you are becoming more constricted, tense, and angry. There is less oxygen flowing to the brain as it is being redirected to our limbs and core, supporting our fight or flight response.

From a view of the Fundamentals of Faith as the basis for success, Napoleon Hill states that one of the ingredients of faith is “a positive mental attitude from which all negatives such as fear, envy, hatred, jealousy, and greed are removed. You can’t have faith if the prevailing attitude of your mind is negative, no matter what may have caused the negative attitude.” (Napoleon Hill, page 55)

The Seven Positive Emotions
The Seven Negative Emotions
Love, Sex, Hope, Faith, Enthusiasm, Loyalty, Desire
Fear (there are six basic fears), Jealousy, Hatred, Revenge, Greed, Anger, Superstition
(Napoleon Hill, page 34)

I don’t want to leave this section without additional clarity regarding negative emotions. At times there is value in the use of negative emotions. Let’s take an example of a job promotion. You have hope, enthusiasm and desire to attain that new goal. You also have fear (it’s something new, different, or just beyond your experience base) or jealousy (I deserve this before someone else). Recognizing and understanding the value of this negative emotion can “force” you to be propelled into overcoming and “walking through” that emotion. You must always be in control of – not controlled by negative energy. This also goes for managing your positive energy for it has the potential to turn negative.

Energy at Work

As leaders we have teams made up of various individuals (stakeholders, team members, etc) who at times are positive and negative to varying degrees. We need to fine-tune and turn up the volume on our intuition antenna. Our goal as positive leaders is to guide and support the team maintaining a positive continuing energy flow, reducing/diverting/halting the negative energy that can derail success. The first step may be to get or create a personal assessment for each key stakeholder. This could be an extension of the stakeholder analysis deliverable.

Personal Assessment

This personal assessment will be based on a criterion of “feelings”. For example:

  • How do you feel each morning when you wake up?
  • How do you feel when you walk in the office door?
  • How do you feel when we are having a team meeting?
  • Do you feel valued by the team?
  • Do you feel valued by the team leadership?
  • At the end of the day do you still have energy or are you drained?

State of Current Environment

Now let’s move into the company culture/environment. We need to understand the “big” picture as all the pieces are impacted by and impact each other. Not only will this impact your team, it impacts YOU and your ability to lead! Create an assessment for the organization, your division, your department, your vendors, etc.

Culture Checklist

  • Do you feel that others are open in conversation?
  • Do you feel that you can be open in conversation?
  • Do you feel positive or negative energy from your key stakeholders?
  • Is the energy consistent across the organization?

The Signs


OK, so we now understand how positive and negative energy impacts our personal effectiveness and the effectiveness of our team and our success. As a parent who investigates a room for safety concerns, let’s now look at each of our current situations from an energy safety perspective using our senses. (By the way, have you noticed that effective, positive leaders usually sit back and sense the atmosphere in a meeting – perhaps not even engaging in any conversation. In many cases they are intuitively “reading” the room and the verbal and non-verbal exchanges not just what was said, but how it was said and how it was received.)

One key point to note is that what you see your team experiencing is a reflection of you! You see, our thoughts and expectations are energy creations that come back to life for us – whether we really want them or not! If you have negative thoughts of fear or scarcity, you will experience fear and scarcity. Remember to think and focus your mental energy on what you DO want, not what you DON’T want and do the same for your team.


Take a look around your work area, and your team work areas. Do you see and feel a sense of openness occurring in conversations? Are team members excited and energized after conversations and meetings or are they drained? (Note: the most common area of “energy drain” is unproductive meetings!)

Are team members approaching each other from a positive energy perspective that allows healthy exchanges and forward thinking? Do you see a lot of email exchanges that go on and on without ever engaging in a quick phone call to resolve and clarify? Are some of your team members isolated? What messages do you see posted on walls? (Note: having positive posters without company management congruency in culture will not create a positive atmosphere. In those cases, it just makes an “easy” target and reminder of what is missing to employees.)


Now step back every now and then and listen to the conversations and the tone of the conversations. Is there a fair exchange occurring or do they seem to be one-sided? Do you hear supportive and forward energy conversations? Do you hear negative jabs (zingers) directed at each other “cloaked” as humor? Do you hear a lot of gossip conversations (negative energy)? Are the verbal tones excited or anxious? What are the word choices that are used? Do your team members ask for the opinion of others and do they actively listen to what was said?


Ah, now we get to look at this from two aspects – what you say and what you ask for (Dr. Linne Bourget). Let’s first start with what is said. What are the word choices that are being used in conversations? Did you realize that inadvertent use of negative energy words creates an energy drain for others (and you). Little words like “but” can stop the flow of energy. Use of words like “we have a problem” versus “we have an opportunity/challenge” can either halt/churn energy or can open the gates more for free flowing energy.

“What you ask for“ is an area that needs a special focus. You see, having a good sense of what you want creates a positive energy that is focused on meeting your expectations. If out of frustration, scarcity and fear, we give others the power to create a solution, in many cases what comes back to us is not what we really wanted. Are your team members asking you for the solution or are they giving you options? How do you feel when you are asked for the solution versus when alternatives are provided for comparison and discussion? How does your team “ask” from each other?

Taking Action

The value of our “energy” and “energy” management

We need to become more in tune with ourselves, more connected and aware of our intuition (our energy barometer). We will then more easily sense negative energy in its many forms and can take actions to redirect, shut-down, ignore or effectively manage our response and the impact it will have on us and our team. We will also become more in tune and attracted to positive energy which will help us support the continued flow of positive energy and the success that follows. It is for our health, our teams health, our project’s health, our company’s health, our economy’s health, and don’t forget our family’s health!

I have had coaching clients who indicated that their internal change to a positive attitude created a happier them which in turn (or in reflection) created happier others. I created a seminar on Leadership & Persuasion that promotes improving our ability to change and influence others. What is really happening in the seminar is that the students increase their understanding that change first occurs within us. As we then begin to change, the energy that we generate creates “like-energy” in others.

What you do and don’t do

OK, so what are some “next steps”.

  1. Read, read and read (or listen in your “road library”)
  2. Begin to analyze and track what happens each day. Remember to focus on how you are feeling at that particular time or when particular words and statements are used. Note what happens as far as the reaction of others to the situation. (Remember, the more you focus your attention to a matter, it will become a part of who you are. You are then creating an understanding of what’s REALLY going on, not what you think is happening.)
  3. Validate your observation with those involved.
  4. Be aware of what you are saying, what is being said around you, and what you allow or don’t allow to be said around you. (Remember the comedic “jabs”. They can be as simple as “Here he comes again, late as usual”.)
  5. Take stock of how your team, stakeholders, and your management are “feeling”.
  6. Review all of your communication – comments, presentations, email and be sure that your message is positive.
  7. Look in the mirror as you say comments. See what your face and body are saying. Many times you will see a reflection of the negative in what or how you are communicating.
  8. Find an accountability partner, someone who knows what you are doing and can provide feedback to you.
  9. Visualize each day. This powerful item is building on our ability to direct our mind to create what we want to experience each day. It is called “scripting”. The key to scripting is to describe the day and your experiences focusing on how you want to FEEL. Different, right? Well it really works when you know how to use it consistently.
  10. Find a coach that will help you grow and have your intuition become second nature to your success!


  1. Encourage your team to read or bring in new concepts for them (whether from you or another). You might want to include a mini-review as part of your meetings.
  2. Be aware and stop any negative comments or attitudes that impede team progress and exchange.
  3. Direct, support and set expectations on positive “in control” outlooks. Remember that what you want them to “ask for” and what they should “ask for” should support their being “in control”. You still have the option of choosing direction – doesn’t it make it easier for you when they now do the ground work? Also remember that if your team is constantly deferring to you, perhaps it’s a reflection that you are projecting where they are made to feel less than capable of making an informed suggestion.
  5. Provide additional training in support of this new behavior.


  1. When you give employee reviews, be sure to discuss how they are feeling and provide direction for them based on what you have/are experiencing. In our reviews, we tend to focus on deficiencies. Why not look at strengths and build on them? Isn’t that why we look for diversity on our teams?
  2. Reinforce positive behavior – they will enjoy it, the team will enjoy it and you will enjoy it! (Their family will enjoy it TOO!)
  3. Be a “coach” and “mentor” to the individuals you are managing or bring in someone to help you support and encourage them.

Check out “It’s a Matter of Choice” in the reference section of this white paper to read an example of a positive attitude!


  • Bolte-Taylor, Dr. Jill (2008). My Stoke of Insight – Peace is just a thought away, retrieved 10/1/2009, TED Talk internet video,
  • Bourget, Dr. Linne (2004). What You $ay Is What You Get – The $ecret Language of Great Business Results, Scottsdale, AZ, Positive Paradigms.
  • Canfield, Jack (2000). The Power of Focus, Deerfield Beach, FL, Health Communications, Inc.
  • Hill, Napoleon (1991). Succeed and Grow Rich Through Persuasion, New York, NY, Signet.
  • O’Leary, Elizabeth, (2000). 10 Minute Guide – Leadership (2nd Edition), Indianapolis, IN , Pearson Education
  • Maggio, Rosalie (1990), How to Say It; Choice words, phrases, sentences & paragraphs for every situation, Paramus, NJ, Prentice Hall
  • Maxwell, John C. (1999). The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, Nashville, TN, Thomas Nelson, Inc.
  • Maxwell, John C. (2003), Attitude 101 – What every leader needs to know, Nashville, TN, Maxwell Motivation, Inc.
  • Mortensen, Kurt W. (2004), Maximum Influence – The 12 Universal Laws of Power Persuasion, New York, NY, AMACOM
  • Vitale, Joe (2005), The Attractor Factor – 5 Easy Steps For Creating Wealth (or anything else) From the Inside Out. Hoboken, NJ, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Zander, Rosamund Stone & Benjamin (2000). The Art of Possibility – Transforming Professional and Personal Life, Boston, MA, Harvard Business School Press

Reference email transcript: “It’s a Matter of Choice, ALWAYS…

Jerry is the manager of a restaurant. He is always in a good mood. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would always reply, “If I were any better, I’d be twins.”

Many of the waiters at his restaurant quit their jobs when he changed jobs, so they could follow him around from restaurant to restaurant. WHY? Because Jerry was a natural motivator.

If an employee was having a bad day, Jerry was always there, telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.

Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up to Jerry and asked him.

“I don’t get it, no one can be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?

Jerry replied, “Each morning I wake up and say to myself, I have two choices today. I can choose to be in a good mood or I can choose to be in a bad mood.

I always choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to learn from it. I always chose to learn from it. Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or I can point out the positive side of life.

I always choose the positive side of life.

“But it’s not always that easy”, I said.

“Yes it is”, Jerry said. “Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people will affect your mood. You choose to be in a good mood or a bad mood. It’s your choice how you live your life.”

Several years later, I heard that Jerry did something you are never supposed to do in the restaurant business….He left the back door of his restaurant open AND THEN????

In the morning he was robbed by three men. They Wanted $ *#$$$…
While Jerry trying to open the safe box, his hand, shaking from nervousness, slipped off the combination.

The robbers panicked and shot him. Luckily, Jerry was found quickly and rushed to the hospital.

After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, Jerry was released from the hospital with fragments of the bullets still in his body…

I saw Jerry about six months after the accident. When I asked him how he was, he replied,

“If I were any better, I’d be twins. Want to see my scars?”

I declined to see his wounds, but did ask him what had gone through his mind as the robbery took place.

“The first thing that went through my mind was that I should have locked the back door,” Jerry replied.

“Then after they shot me, as I lay on the floor, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live or I could choose to die. I chose to live.”
“Weren’t you scared?”, I asked.

Jerry continued, “The paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the emergency room and I saw the expression on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read ‘He’s a dead man.’ I knew I needed to take action.”

“What did you do?”, I asked.

“Well, there was a big nurse shouting questions at me, said Jerry. “She asked if I was allergic to anything.” ‘Yes,’ I replied. The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, ‘Bullets!’ Over their laughter I told them, ‘I am choosing to live. Please operate on me as if I am alive, not dead’.

Jerry lived thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude. I learned from him that…Every day you have the choice to either enjoy your life or to hate it.

The only thing that is truly yours – that no one can control or take from you – Is your Attitude,

SO if you can take care of that, everything else in life becomes much easier.

Now you have to make a choice: –

  1. you can decide not to share this message
  2. you can tell someone you care about this message

I hope you will choose the 2nd as I did!“ (unknown author –received from email)

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