Positive Leadership: The Staff Series “Balance in Life”

August 19, 2016

By: , Fay Sommer

In Professor Kim Cameron’s book titled Positive Leadership: Strategies for Extraordinary Performance, there is a section that addresses a positive work climate. He states that there are “[t]hree particularly important activities for promoting a positive climate [which] include the fostering of compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude among employees in organizations.” On page 31 of this book, he includes a graph from the Institute of HeartMath Research Center on changing heart rhythms when people experience frustration versus appreciation (a close cousin of gratitude).

Fay Sommer was one of the participants of the Positive Leadership series taught by faculty at the Ross School of Business. In what follows, she shares her experience of what she ascertained from these sessions.

Fay Sommer
Project Manager Marketing & Communications
Years at Ross: 8

1. Before you attended the sessions, what did you think you were going to gain from them?

I thought that I would obtain a better understanding of the Ross Positive Organizational Scholarship Leadership perspective. I was curious to know what is being taught here at Ross and what inspiration I might gain to help me be a better leader.

2. How would you explain/describe the experience of attending these sessions to a close friend or family member?

All of the information was good; in fact, it was quite exceptional. I did not anticipate hearing about some of this information in the workplace. Professor Kim Cameron’s positivity research on how happy/optimistic people live longer was excellent, as well as the impact of keeping a gratitude journal.

When people dwell on the negative, it puts them in a bad place. Tying emotions and health (especially the research of the Institute of HeartMath) helps people to move beyond a negative place. Moving to a positive experience can be a focus of your world/life. There is a bridge that can be crossed between health and work. Taking a walk in the Arboretum is a great way to connect with nature and positively affect your physical and mental health.

3. How do you see yourself applying what you learned in your everyday life?

The biggest take-away was the 90-second exercise that Professor Robert Quinn asked us to do – write our life’s purpose. This purpose changes and grows with you. I have done this all my life. Like a compass, if my heart is not into something, then is it really what I want to be doing? What works today may not work tomorrow. It is vital to continually update our life statement — to know where we want to go. Otherwise, we may want to achieve one thing but find ourselves going into another direction. There is the “Old Story” with our old beliefs and there is the “New Story” with new beliefs. We are fluid and don’t remain stagnant.

4. What constitutes a positive work environment?

A positive work environment is one where everyone works together to build a cohesive environment and where “everyone” can thrive and flourish. There is open communication and a sharing of ideas.

There is a deep benefit to holding leadership responsible for developing their employees and ensuring that this is a part of their performance review. Although there is much talk about positive leadership, I would like to see some stronger incentives to move us beyond status quo.


I really connected with the first three sessions of the series. Each had a strong message and they built one on top of the other. They were targeted at positive leadership and true game changers. Busy people are driven in certain directions and do not usually look for balance in their life. These sessions addressed this core value. The last two sessions were key topics but more divergent and dealt with the nitty, gritty of leadership.

Understanding the concept of an integration map and the opportunity to be creative and innovative was a wonderful opportunity. We took the concepts we learned and applied them to outside of work. I am now working on a collage that captures and reinforces what has helped me move forward in my life.

If you would like to discover how to be a more effective and positive leader, we highly recommend that you read the book How to Be a Positive Leader: Small Actions, Big Impact, edited by Jane E. Dutton and Gretchen M. Spreitzer.

Positive Leadership: The Staff Series is a group of interviews capturing staff reflections after participating in the Positive Leadership Workshops.