empowerA recent interview in the New York Times got me thinking about how effective leaders are often already practicing affirmative leadership, they just don’t know it. In the interview, Adam Bryant spoke with Sabine Heller, chief executive of A Small World, an online travel and lifestyle community. Heller talked about her leadership style. “I empower people,” she said. “I promote people. I give them a lot of leeway. At the end of the day, I look at results, and that’s it. I feel very strongly that organizations infantilize employees. You should treat them like adults.” Empowerment plays a big role in our affirmative leadership process. When participants create their collective purpose statements and paths to mastery, they are creating positive images for stimulating a desirable neural response. When people envision the tremendous contributions they can make to the greater purpose—and visualize themselves mastering a critical attitude, behavior or body of knowledge—dopamine increases and motivation grows. This new understanding of neurobiology provides better tools for creating change. Studies have shown that putting these positive images and affirmations in writing transfers neural resources from the portions of the brain associated with fear and resistance to the portions of the brain associated with a sense of control and empowerment. The act of writing itself suppresses neural resistance to change and increases openness to change. When people are open to change and feel empowered, it has a direct neural impact, generating neural chemicals associated with enhanced performance. In this way, empowering employees is the first step in fostering their leadership potential.]]>

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