Positive Leadership: The Staff Series “Self-Improvement”

August 12, 2016

By: Mary Ceccanese, Damian Zikakis

The Positive Leadership Series held for staff last fall at the Ross School of Business was based on a number of chapters in Professors Jane Dutton and Gretchen Spreitzer’s book How to Be a Positive Leader. One of the features mentioned in the book “takes the perspective that small actions by leaders can and do have big impact. The authors identify small actions that make a big difference in the potential for enlarging capacities for positive impact.” Continue reading to find out how Damian Zikakis is applying those actions.

Damian Zikakis
Director of Career Services
Number of Years at Ross: 5 years

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

I am an advocate of self-improvement and like to take advantage of opportunities for learning and development. I thought it would a real treat to be a student of our Ross faculty and to get to know colleagues in a different setting.

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

The content was simultaneously informative and motivational. By going through the course as a group as opposed to reading a book, I was moved to actually do pre-work to participate more fully. Reading the chapter and then hearing the faculty who wrote it deepened the learning experience.

3. What did you take away and how do you see yourself applying what you learned into your everyday life?

Small actions can have large positive results in working with others and in my own life. I’m going to incorporate those lessons and keep them in the forefront of my mind. As an example, the day after the session taught by Professor Bob Quinn, I wrote on the white board in my office “What result do I want to create?” I think about that sentence before I go into a meeting or deal with a difficult situation. I also want to remember the lesson that Professor Kim Cameron taught about the difference one degree can make in our thinking.

4. What constitutes a positive work environment?

A positive work environment is a place with commitment by all parties to a shared goal or vision. This place is one in which differences of opinion and approach are encouraged and embraced. And, finally, the people in this environment consider mutual respect as a fundamental element.


I would love to see the training repeated. I wonder if the size of the group is optimum. For me a smaller group would be better; however, that may be the difference between introverts and extroverts.

I sincerely wish to express my appreciation to the faculty for sharing their gifts and to the staff for all the table decorations and ice breakers. These efforts and “warm-ups” made the experience less academic and more approachable.

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.