A Book Review of Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do

Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do by Kathryn D. Cramer is not for the faint of heart or mind. It will take a little bit of work to get through the very readable, yet meaty leadership book.

Using strong research and stories she experienced first-hand through her consulting practice, Dr. Cramer lays out an actionable approach to leading people based on her Asset-Based Thinking (ABT) process.

I say it’s not for the faint of heart because it will require exercising some mental and emotional muscles most of us do not default to: seeing the positives in most any situation while learning to communicate (say) a possibility-driven vision and to act (do) in a way that moves that vision forward.

Lead Positive Shall Shifts Make Big Differences Kathy Cramer

Why I Like the Book

As a guy who loves to drink up podcasts and books and blogs on leadership and success and personal management, I tend toward wanting to turn conversations and responses to focus on the positives and possibilities.

Consequently, I get accused of being pollyanna and unrealistic.

The internal question I ask when I am so confronted and accused is this, “Why the heck not focus on positives and possibilities? I know the situation as it stands is pretty crappy, but how about we see it as manure instead? What can we cause to grow from this aforementioned pile of crap?”

Queue the eye rolls.

Therefore, Dr. Cramer’s book is refreshing to me.

It gives a framework for not simply making empty, “possibility” statements, but truly moving situations (and ourselves and others) in positive directions. She doesn’t suggest we blind ourselves to struggles and difficulties. Rather, she encourages leaders to make minor mindset shifts to leverage nearly any situation for productive results or as a base for a productive plan.

The Five to One Ratio Principle

When I read a book like this, I try to find a hook that helps me retain the over-arching principles. The five to one ratio principle is that hook for me from Lead Positive.

This idea comes from psychologist John Gottman’s work with married couples. He and his team observed that an overwhelming predictor of a strong marriage was the ratio of positive to negative comments.  Five positives to one negative seemed to produce good results over time.

To me, the book pushes a leader to lead in a sort of 5 to 1 positive to negative ratio. Over time, this habit of walking in the positive will provide a new framework through which the leader sees, says, and does.

Key Ideas

Effective Leaders See, Say, Do from a Possibility Mindset

As she breaks down the process that a leader goes through in any key situation), she encourages her readers to find the actionable positives and possibilities. When we see a situation  and communicate about it and respond to it with our actions, we should do so by leveraging the potentialities made available by the situation.

This shift in mindset battles these options:

  • Catastrophizing (or assuming the absolute worst outcomes are inevitable)
  • Blaming or excuse-making
  • Giving up
  • I’m sure there’s more
Effective Leaders Must Apply This Positive See, Say, Do to Self (in addition to others and their situations)

I love how Dr. Cramer mines the three key spheres of influence that a leader has. Normally, leadership writing focuses on how to influence people to improve situations.

Cramer addresses the ‘self’ piece, too. Basically, (my translation), we have to use the five to one principle on ourselves. If leaders don’t fill up their own tanks with this five to one ratio (not that any of you leaders ever suffer from pouring the negativity all over oneself), they can’t sustain seeing, saying, and doing the effective things in relation to others and situations.

Final Thoughts and Application to Nonprofit Leadership

Cramer’s information and ABT process are both compelling. The fact that she includes the equivalent of a workbook throughout the book makes it also very useful.

She helps her readers assess themselves and guides them into the mindset shifts required by the Asset-Based Thinking leadership process. It’s a challenging book period. And that’s a good thing.

Finally, as it relates to nonprofit leadership, there is not much more to say. Leadership is leadership. The principles in this book can easily transfer from the corporate world to the nonprofit world to family life (I’m working on implementing some of these strategies at home).

I suggest finding a copy and working your way through it. It’s not the easiest of reads, but it is well worth the effort.

Click here to purchase the book: Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do (affiliate link)

(You can read Dr. Cramer’s guest post on this blog here)

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