Appreciative Leadership

Appreciative Leadership

Appreciative leaders encourage contributions from those around them and facilitate the discussion to mutually solve problems. Understand the concept of Appreciative Leadership and learn about tools to create and ask powerful questions – that lead to new discoveries and possibilities. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong in the workplace, learn about, and build upon what works. Learn in this article the art to apply appreciative inquiry to specific situations and challenges at your workplace.

What is Appreciative Leadership?

Appreciative Leadership is a highly participatory approach that involves asking strategically crafted questions about an organization’s collective strengths, achievements, success stories, positive traditions, and visions for the future. Appreciative Leadership is a communication style that works on the basis of valuing people’s contributions as well as using their ideas and insights in a collaborative approach. Whitney, Torsten-Bloom, and Rader define Appreciative Leadership as “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”. 

According to this definition:

  • Participative Leadership involves relational processes and practices through which people come together to work inclusively and collaboratively.
  • It is a positive worldview, based on the belief that every person, team, and organization has a positive potential.
  • It recognizes potential and seeks to turn it into positive power.
  • It creates waves of positive change rippling outward.

What is Appreciative Inquiry?

The foundation of Appreciative Leadership is in theory and approach to organizing known as Appreciative Inquiry (AI).  Appreciative Inquiry is a philosophy and a methodology for positive change. AI seeks to discover the unique, positive qualities and capabilities of an organization and use these as the foundation for future development or change.  AI is based on the assumption that organizations will change in the direction of the questions asked. It is a process of organizational change that emphasizes positive questions and collaborative inquiry as a source for enhanced performance and creating a common purpose. The essence of Appreciative Inquiry is the study of what “gives life,” energy, and vitality to organizations, teams, and people when they are at their best.

AI is firmly grounded in social constructionist theory, ideas around the power of generative conversations, and the centrality of relationships and language in the functioning of organizations. The appreciative Inquiry process engages large numbers of people in discussions about their individual and collective strengths and their desires, opportunities, and plans for collaborative action.

In short, AI tries to address two questions as a starting point, What problems the organizations is currently having, and what seems to be working around here. Then the next step is to improve by focusing on and doing more of what is working well.

Ask the following questions to yourself to start the journey on the path to appreciative leadership:

1. What are my strengths as a leader when working with others?

2. How can I show that I appreciate and value others’ contributions?

3. What can I do to engage people in finding solutions and work collaboratively?

4. How can I encourage creative thinking and innovation in people?

Model of Appreciative Leadership:

The model of leadership put forth by Whitney, Trosten-Bloom, and Rader is extremely well aligned and consistent in theory and practice with AI. The authors introduce the Five Core Strategies of Appreciative Leadership on which the model of Appreciative Leadership is based; Inquiry, Illumination, Inclusion, Inspiration, and Integrity. Appreciate what is working, imagine what could be, design what should be, and create what will be!

According to Whitney and her colleagues, there are five core strategies to appreciative leadership:

1. Inquiry: asking positive powerful questions

Inquiry lets people know that you value them and their contributions. When you ask people to share their thoughts and feelings you show your appreciation for their inputs and experiences.

2. Illumination: bringing out the best in people and situations

Illumination helps people understand how they can best contribute. This is the process to help people learn about their strengths and the strengths of others.

3. Inclusion: engaging with people to co-create the future

Inclusion gives people a sense of belonging. This is the process of inclusiveness and collaboration and co-creation. This is about creating an environment in which people feel they are a part of something.

4. Inspiration:  awakening the creative spirit in everyone

Inspiration provides people with a sense of direction. By forging a vision and path forward, you give people hope and unleash energy.

5. Integrity: making choices for the good of the whole

Integrity lets people know that they are expected to give their best for the greater good and that they can trust others to do the same.

Books to Read:

Appreciative Leadership by Diana Whitney, et al (2010)

The Power of Appreciative Inquiry, 2nd Edition by Diana Whitney and Amanda Trosten-Bloom

Related Links

You may also like Adaptive Leadership Style | Agile Leadership Style | Appreciative Leadership | Authentic Leadership Style | Authoritarian Leadership Style | Bad Leadership Style | Bureaucratic Leadership Style | Collaborative Leadership | Charismatic Leadership | Democratic Leadership | Directive Leadership Style | Emergent Leadership | Laissez-Faire Leadership | Narrative Leadership Style | Level Five Leadership | Lean Leadership Approach | Crisis Leadership Style | Cross-Cultural Leadership | Facilitative Leadership | Narcissistic Leadership | Scientific Management Style

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