We live at a time when political correctness captures headlines. Accusations of injustice, privilege, unconscious bias, and systemic racism happen daily. Between 50 and 75 percent of people admit to self-censoring for fear of being seen as politically incorrect. Therefore, it is not surprising that employee disengagement and disaffection in the workforce hover at around 70 percent. Contradicting the dominant ideology often costs employees their reputations. In some cases, their employment–and the emphasis on political correctness–is not diminishing, even though most employees dislike it.
Attributes of a Culture of Political Correctness
In corporate cultures where political correctness dominates, taking offense and being on the lookout for transgressions are typical. Pressure toward conformity to an acceptable point of view is common. People tend to pass judgment on others, level accusations, and hold grudges. Negative energy predominates. Couple this with today’s high employee burnout, and the need for a positive culture is greater than ever.
Attributes of a Culture of Virtuousness
As highlighted in Positively Energizing Leadership, there is extensive research on what drives positive cultures. Organizations that exceed industry averages in performance and employee well-being prioritize a culture of virtuousness instead of political conformity.
Virtuousness refers to the highest aspirations to which human beings aspire—the best of the human condition. For example, in these organizations, people seek opportunities to contribute to, uplift, and positively energize others. The culture prioritizes the demonstration of compassion and charity, humility and gratitude, unconditional love and acceptance, and trustworthiness. Forgiveness is a daily occurrence. These organizations emphasize helping each employee flourish and contributing to the welfare of the whole. Positive energy predominates. The result is bottom-line performance that almost always exceeds industry averages.
The Role of Leaders
Empirical evidence confirms that the most important factor in creating such a culture is the organization’s leader. However, not just any leader can create this kind of culture. The extent to which the leader is a positive energizer helps determine if there is a culture of virtuousness and extraordinary bottom-line performance.
Positive energy is inherently life-giving and vitality-producing. For instance, in nature, the most common source of positive energy is the Sun, which is a life-giving force. All species, including human beings, are inclined toward life-giving energy and light. They languish in the presence of life-depleting or life-endangering negative energy. This phenomenon is called the heliotropic effect.
Forms of Energy
A variety of forms of energy exist including physical energy, emotional energy, mental energy, and relational energy. Each of the first three forms of energy diminishes with use. They require recuperation when expended. Relational energy is the only form of energy that elevates with use. We seldom get exhausted, for example, by being around a person with whom we have a loving, supportive relationship. Positively energizing leaders exude positive relational energy and cultivate elevating, replenishing, and life-giving cultures for all employees.
Positively Energizing Leadership
Positive relational energy is based on demonstrating virtuousness. Research in children as young as three months old confirms that human beings thrive in the presence of, virtuousness—gratitude, fairness, generosity, compassion, and forgiveness. When leaders demonstrate virtuousness, the well-being and engagement of employees improves. Their organizations produce significantly higher levels of productivity, quality, customer loyalty, innovation, and profitability compared to industry averages.
Also, demonstrating virtuousness unleashes the inherent potential of all human beings toward positive, life-giving energy. Multiple studies show that experiencing and observing virtuousness is heliotropic. It leads to employee and organizational thriving, especially in difficult times.
Practices of Positive Energizing Leaders
Leaders can change an organization’s culture from one mired in fear, disengagement, and political incorrectness accusations. To move into a culture full of positive energy, flourishing, and above-average performance, positively energizing leader activities include:
- All employees receive a gratitude journal for recording the best things that happened during the day or the things for which they are grateful.
- In addition to recognizing outstanding performance with awards, top performers receive chances to contribute by teaching, coaching, or mentoring others.
- Leaders create a publicly available gratitude or good news wall where employees record what or who they wish to celebrate.
- Mistakes and errors are redefined as learning opportunities by publicizing what was learned from the incident.
- Managers write letters to the families of employees describing the contributions the employee is making to the organization.
- A team of positive energizers in the organization mobilize to “infect” their colleagues with a positive, virtuous culture. Infect means that others can explain or illustrate virtuous cultural attributes. They also attempt to achieve a one percent improvement themselves.
John Quincy Adams captured the essence of positively energizing leadership. He said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a positively energizing leader.”