In the business world, leadership is a fundamental quality for the success of any organisation. But what kind of leader are you – are you an affirming leader or is your attitude the opposite? A new study looked at this question and found that the way a leader communicates with his or her team can have a significant impact on performance and employee satisfaction.

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Affirmative leadership VS. Disempowering Leadership

It is clear that people are more comfortable and happier when we’re treated with empathy and understanding and when we feel that our work is valued. But it seems that there are people in positions of power in organisations who don’t see it this way, or at least are not capable of orienting their leadership towards this way of relating.

A study by the University of Worcester in the UK and the University of Sargodha in Pakistan brought this issue to the table by analysing empowering or affirmative leaders and disempowering leaders.


Leading with empathy and trust

For researchers, the former are those who encourage their team members with kind words in order to increase their confidence and commitment to the tasks at hand.

Empathy is an outstanding quality in these people. They’re able to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each person, so they can adapt and change the way they communicate depending on what they want to convey or achieve.


Leading from intimidation and authority

On the other hand, there are disempowering leaders, those who base their leadership on more tyrannical attitudes. They have a negative impact on motivation and commitment due to a lack of empathy and an excessive obsession with power or control. They use blame, intimidation or favouritism to make some employees feel valued and others feel excluded —those who do not achieve the desired results or make mistakes.

They openly criticise colleagues they see as threats to their status or position. In addition, a lack of trust with their team hinders delegation, which causes work to pile up and prevents the organisation from operating quickly and efficiently.

The language we use as leaders can be a powerful tool to motivate and increase the satisfaction of our team or, on the contrary, to demotivate and cause a loss of self-confidence.



“The language we use as leaders can be a powerful tool to motivate and increase the satisfaction of our team”.


How does the way we speak impact on others?

If employees feel that their work is useless or that they have no control over the outcome, they’re less likely to feel motivated to work and achieve goals. In addition, disempowering language can negatively affect employees’ self-esteem and their confidence in their abilities. If employees don’t feel capable of achieving goals, they’re less likely to strive to achieve them. It can also affect job satisfaction. If the atmosphere in a team is one in which their leader does not trust or value them, they’re less likely to feel committed to the organisation.


Reflections on taking an affirmative approach to leadership

Based on the results of the study, here are some ideas on how to achieve an affirmative and empowering type of leadership:

* The power of taking a positive approach: instead of stressing what cannot be done or what’s difficult, better results are achieved by highlighting what can be done and what’s possible. Using affirmative phrases such as “We will find a solution” or “I’m sure we can do it together” can be good practice.

* Acknowledge the achievements and strengths of others: a compliment can never be too much, neither congratulating for a job well done. Rather than focusing on weaknesses or mistakes, emphasising what team members have done well and how they‘ve contributed to the organisation’s success will increase their self-esteem and motivation.

* Work on constructive criticism: of course, you can (and should) point out the mistakes that are made. It’s essential in order to learn from them. As essential as constructive criticism is for people to improve and grow in their roles.

* Encourage collaboration and participation: Involving the team in decision-making and encouraging collaboration can increase their sense of ownership and commitment to the organisation. Rather than making all the decisions, asking your team to share their ideas and perspectives can lead to more creative and effective solutions.

personas remando en una canoa en un rio representando el liderazgo afirmativo

In conclusion, affirmative leadership can have a significant impact on employee performance and job satisfaction. Leaders who use affirmative language reinforce the potential of their team and create a bond of trust with them. Working in a positive environment that values a job well done and helps to correct mistakes in order to improve is a powerful tool for success.