If you asked 100 people to define leadership, you’re likely to receive 100 different answers. Although extensive research has been done in recent years on the power of positivity in everyday life, and how effective it can be in business, still far too many leaders are negative or fear-based.

Perhaps the most common example of this can be seen in athletic coaches; the stereotypical screamer that heaps harsh criticism on the players whenever they fail to perform to his (usually) unrealistic standards. Is this type of abusive behavior actually effective?

It does change behavior. Sometimes very quickly. But there is a price to be paid. What happens when the leader doesn’t have the organizational or economic threat to the employee? The issue is also one of executive capacity. Negative reinforcement is “one gear” and, too often, that’s all a leader has. One gear is limiting. The best leaders make use of a wide range of motivators, inspirational methods, and authenticity.

True leadership reinforces the positive in people

Today, the focus is on the positive when doing performance appraisals for example, not to mention the daily oversight of staffs and teams. Being positive enhances the mindset of the people you lead, building loyalty and creating in them a need to perform well for you, and meet your expectations of them.

“Evidence is thus stronger now that positive emotions play a unique role in maintaining and promoting flourishing mental health.” Updated Thinking on Positivity Ratios, by Barbara L. Fredrickson, 7/15/13.

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson is a world-renowned researcher and leading thinker in the power of positivity and its effects on human flourishing. In her ground-breaking book, Positivity, Dr. Fredrickson offers a set of lab-tested tools required to create a healthier, more vibrant, and flourishing life. Through her years of research, she realized that experiencing positive emotions broadens people’s minds and increases their resourcefulness in ways that help them to become far more resilient to adversity, and effortlessly achieve what they had previously only imagined.

The importance and value of this type of thinking is manifest in effective leader, moving them from berating their “underlings” to guiding team members to grow and prosper; to set goals and reach them; to be effective, positive, productive, and happy in their choices. With an increased focus on positivity, true leaders discover new possibilities, bounce back more easily from setbacks, connect more effectively with others, and become the best type of leader possible, for them.

Perhaps the best thing is to stick with evidence. If you have good data that negative reinforcement is the most effective over the short and long run, then I will be open to that. So far, the majority of the data points to the power of being positive.