Course Syllabi

Courses from the University of Michigan and around the country are outlined in these syllabi, highlighting the study of Positive Organizational Scholarship and positive leadership methods. These courses guide students to new, positive leadership styles, embracing emotion and human nature, acting as an alternative to traditional leadership and teaching them to discover the potential of their workforce.

Becoming a Transformational Leader: A Practicum

Taught by Robert E. Quinn, University of Michigan

MO 623

This course is founded upon an academic perspective that originated at the Ross School of Business. It has grown into a global field of study called Positive Organizational Scholarship.  Scholars in this field examine people, groups, and organizations when they are operating at their very best. Their findings indicate how to move systems from normal to exceptional functioning with extraordinary results.

Tags: transformational leader , Positive Organizational Scholarship

Topics: Positive Leadership

Related People: Robert E. Quinn

Building Healthy Businesses

Taught by Stewart Thornhill, University of Michigan

ES 640

Many opportunities exist, and more are emerging daily, for value creation in the “wellness space.” By better understanding gaps in their ecosystem, students will be able to identify and pursue potential new ventures. And, by studying the various attributes of wellness, participants will also learn best practices for enhancing personal health and well being.

While time constraints may continue to create challenges, knowledge about best practices for personal physical health and psychological resilience will increase the odds that participants will be able to successfully cope with personal and professional stresses, particularly those associated with the launch and growth of new ventures.

Students participating in the course will:

  • Learn about opportunities to create and capture value in the health, wellness, and personal resiliency sectors
  • Develop tools and methods to implement practices in their workplaces that contribute to wellness and resiliency among all employees
  • Apply wellness tools and practices in their own lives

Tags: wellness , psychological resilience , wellness programs

Topics: Positive Practices

Related People: Stewart Thornhill

Current Topics in Organizational Psychology: Positive Organizational Psychology

Taught by Mari Kira, University of Michigan

PSYCH 467-001

Organizational psychology is “the science of psychology applied to work and organizations”. Psychology, when applied to work, has often adopted a problem-focused perspective and focused on avoiding or alleviating negative consequences of work, such as stress, burnout, and social conflicts. However, during this seminar, students of the course will focus on solutions and strengths – on the positively deviant (rather than only neutral or negative) psychological and also social phenomena and processes at work.

Tags: organizational psychology , positive solutions , problem-solving

Topics: Positive Leadership , Positive Practices

Related People: Mari Kira

Empowerment, Self-management and Alternative Approaches to Leadership

Taught at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Agder University College in Norway

ORG 420

The aim of this course is to enrich the students’ perspectives about the relationship between leaders and followers in organizations. While most approaches depict managers as the crucial actors, the perspectives included in this course emphasize the role of the subordinates.

Tags: Empowerment , self-management , leadership , role of subordinates

Topics: Positive Leadership

Flourishing: A Positive Organizational Scholarship Approach to Understanding Happiness and Well-being at Work

Taught by Professor Theresa M. Glomb, University of Minnesota

POS 8820

This seminar will cover a variety of topics from the emerging field of Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS) and the related field of Positive Psychology. We will focus in-depth on the research and principles of POS and the approach to topics. Given that this is a relatively new field, my objectives for the course are to have you thinking about research in work and organizations from the POS perspective by sampling from the domain of research and topics that have been approached from this vantage point. Importantly, I want you to be able to think critically about your own research from the POS perspective. This is another “lens” through which you will be able to view your own and others’ research.

Tags: Flourishing , Positive Organizational Scholarship , positive psychology

Topics: Positive Leadership

Foundations in Positive Organizational Scholarship

Taught by Jane Dutton, University of Michigan

MO 455

This course is designed to give students (undergraduate and MBAs) a working and practical knowledge of the growing domain of positive organizational scholarship (POS) based on an intensive immersion in POS research and practice. POS is an interdisciplinary approach to leading and being in work organizations in ways that call forth the best in people, resulting in individual and collective flourishing. Flourishing is a term that captures the optimal state of functioning of individuals, groups or organizations, with indicators such as thriving, engagement, health, growth and creativity as well as other markers of being in a state of positive deviance.

Tags: Positive Organizational Scholarship

Topics: Positive Leadership

Related People: Jane Dutton

Human Behavior and Organizations: Managing for Excellence in Work Organizations

Taught by Jane Dutton, University of Michigan


Jane Dutton taught this course on how to create, foster, and manage organizations in which people thrive and perform at their best, assuming that employee and group thriving is the key to organizational excellence.

Tags: organizational excellence , organizational framework , effective leader

Topics: Positive Leadership

Related People: Jane Dutton

Human Behavior and Organizations: Managing for Excellence in Work Organizations

Taught by Wayne Baker, University of Michigan


Wayne Baker teaches this course on how to create, foster and manage organizations in which people thrive and perform at their best.

Tags: organizational framework , effective leader , organization design , problem-solving

Topics: Positive Leadership

Related People: Wayne Baker

Introduction to Positive Human Resource Development

Taught by Meg Rao, Claremont Graduate University

HRD 356

This 8-week overview course will provide an introduction to positive psychology and strengths-based perspectives, theories and methods that have been revolutionizing HR practice over the last few years. While historically, scholars and practitioners have been primarily concerned with what goes wrong in organizations and how to remedy problems, the positive approach focuses on what works, and how to capitalize on strengths. Accordingly, this course will provide an overview of topics such as strengths-based and positive approaches to talent management, performance management, training and development, job design and job crafting, employee empowerment, managing diversity, virtuous downsizing, and job satisfaction. This is a hands-on course and will involve active participation and discussion.

The main purpose of this course is to gain exposure on how to create an attractive corporate culture, increase employee engagement, infuse meaning into the workplace, cultivate openness to change, build trust, create sustainable performance, enhance employee well-being, and foster organizational flourishing. Drawing from positive psychology principles, this course along with the other courses in the Positive Human Resource Development concentration is designed to attend to the ever-changing market needs of the HR function to go beyond the administrative role of HR and actively cultivate and support a flourishing, positive organization.

Tags: Positive Human Resource Development , positive psychology , corporate culture

Leadership and Literature

Taught by Karen Norum, Gonzaga University

DPLS 758

Karen Norum taught Leadership and Literature with a theme of Hope and Affirmation. Positive leadership was examined through different kinds of literature (poetry, biography, historical fiction, wisdom stories, etc…)
Gonzaga University Doctoral Program in Leadership Studies

Tags: self-affirmations , leadership in literature

Topics: Positive Leadership

Leadership in Organizations

Taught by David Mayer, University of Michigan

MO 321

Leadership in Organizations (MO 321) invites you on a journey of personal exploration, understanding and development—with the explicit goal of making demonstrable progress towards becoming a more effective leader. To achieve this goal, the course offers an extensive examination of leadership in organizations and provides you with a set of experiences that are designed to enhance your self-awareness and capacity for effective leadership.

Tags: organizational leadership , effective leader , self-awareness

Topics: Positive Leadership , Positive Meaning & Purpose

Related People: David M. Mayer

Leading with Values

Taught by David Mayer, University of Michigan

MO 620

With the plethora of recent high-profile corporate scandals and the financial crisis being blamed in part by the unethical behavior of Wall Street, it is increasingly important to understand how to be an ethical leader. Leading with Values (MO 620) is aimed to help you develop insights about your own values and to understand how to overcome human tendencies that often disconnect our values from our behaviors. Throughout this course we will focus on what it means to lead with values—so the focus is not about being a good follower but rather how to be an ethical leader.

Tags: Ethical leadership , values

Topics: Positive Ethics & Virtues , Positive Leadership

Related People: David M. Mayer

Managing Change

Taught by Gretchen Spreitzer, University of Michigan

MO 414

This course develops the skills you will need for leading and thriving amidst change. Change is a basic ingredient of life. Recommending, planning, managing, enacting, surviving and evaluating personal and organizational change are challenges that concern everyone. If the ability to execute timely change differentiates successful individuals – and successful organizations – from the run-of-the-mill, then taking this course will give you an important competitive advantage as a leader.

Tags: organizational change , competitive advantage , positive change , leadership

Topics: Positive Leadership

Related People: Gretchen M. Spreitzer

Managing Organizational Change

Taught by Karen Golden-Biddle, Boston University

OB 844

In this course, students will explore the theory and practice of creating change, with an emphasis on how insiders can create desired organizational change through micro-level, every day action. By the end of the course, students should be more capable facilitators of change, sensitive to the nuances of change, and more knowledgeable and wise about its enactment. To cultivate this capacity building, course participants will examine how people access new lines of sight that prompt change, imagine new possibilities for making a positive difference, and deliberate best pathways using an experimental attitude and open heart. When successful, these collective initiatives foster the meaningful and productive contribution of all involved, support human development, and generate significant personal and organizational outcomes.

Tags: Managing Organizational Change , change agents

Topics: Positive Leadership , Positive Practices

Managing Organizational Change

Taught by Karen Golden-Biddle, University of Alberta

OA 633

Karen Golden-Biddle taught this MBA elective course on “Managing Organizational Change.” It has a natural focus on POS through both its content (everyday leading, enacting high quality connections, crafting positive organizing practices, drawing on and changing cultural competences) and its pedagogy of building the learning community’s capacity for navigating the dynamics of change.

Tags: organizational change , management , Positive Organizational Scholarship , everyday leading

Topics: Positive Leadership

Managing Professional Relationships

Taught by Jane Dutton, University of Michigan

MO 615

Jane Dutton taught this course on managing professional relationships from a Positive Organizational Scholarship perspective. The course syllabus has embedded teaching notes in it for most classes. Click on each class number to access the teaching notes.

Tags: Positive Organizational Scholarship , managing professional relationships

Topics: Positive Leadership , Positive Relationships

Related People: Jane Dutton

Navigating Change

Taught by Kim Cameron, University of Michigan

MO 603

This course will help each of us become more effective leaders of change in our organizations, communities, families, and personal lives.

Tags: effective leader , change agents , management

Topics: Positive Leadership

Related People: Kim S. Cameron

Organizational Change & Appreciative Inquiry

Taught by Karen Norum, Gonzaga University

DPLS 742

Karen Norum taught Organizational Change and Appreciative Inquiry, which looks at the emerging field of Positive Organizational Scholarship and specifically, Appreciative Inquiry. A highlight of the class is the sharing of the best-self portraits produced during the Reflected Best Self Exercise.

Tags: organizational change , Appreciative Inquiry , Positive Organizational Scholarship , Reflected Best Self Exercise

Topics: Positive Leadership

Positive Business Communications

Taught by Amy Young, University of Michigan

BCOM 430/530

The goal of this course is to improve students’ effectiveness as leaders, managers, and team members by introducing them to frameworks for understanding how communication affects individual and group performance.

Students focus specifically on positive communicative behaviors that can be used to not only foster exceptional performance but to also address some of the most common interpersonal workplace challenges. Positive communicative behaviors fit within the larger scope of positive organizational practices as they serve as strategies for building high quality connections, sparking positive emotions and energy, expanding possible business solutions and fostering individual and group performance.

Tags: business communications , performance , positive emotions , High Quality Connections

Topics: Positive Practices , Positive Leadership

Related People: Amy Young

Positive Leading People and Organizational Excellence

Taught by Marcello Russo, Kedge Business School


The goal of this course is to provide students an overview of the positive organizational psychology field and an analysis of major factors that can ensure organizational excellence and an optimal human functioning at work with positive effects on general and career well- being.

Tags: positive organizational psychology , organizational excellence

Topics: Positive Practices , Positive Leadership

Positive Organizational Analysis and Development: An Appreciative Inquiry Approach to Change Leadership

Taught by David Cooperrider, Case Western Reserve University

ORBH 444

David Cooperrider taught this course on Positive Organizational Analysis and Development to Executive MBAs. Slides.

Tags: Appreciative Inquiry , Leadership development , Change

Positive Organizational Scholarship and Positive Psychology: New Frontiers in the Study of Human Flourishing at Work

Taught by Jane Dutton and Barb Fredrickson, University of Michigan

MO899/PSYCH 808.006

Jane Dutton and Barbara Fredrickson co-taught a doctoral course on Positive Organizing and Human Flourishing. This course invites students to explore the opportunities presented by two vibrant and emerging fields: Positive Psychology and Positive Organizational Scholarship.

Tags: human flourishing , positive psychology , Positive Organizational Scholarship

Topics: Positive Leadership , Positive Practices

Related People: Jane Dutton , Barbara Fredrickson

Positive Psychology

Taught by Barbara Fredrickson, University of North Carolina

PSYC 062

This course invites you to explore the opportunities presented by the vibrant, intellectually rich, and enormously popular field of Positive Psychology.

Positive Psychology began in 2000 by challenging the field of psychology to deeply explore the positive aspects of life. Instead of drawing exclusively from a “disease model,” Dr. Martin Seligman, founder of positive psychology and past-president of the American Psychological Association, encouraged psychological scientists to focus on strengths as well as weaknesses, on building the best things in life as well as on repairing the worst, and on making the lives of normal people fulfilling as well as on healing pathology. Topics of study include happiness, character strengths, positive emotions, creativity, resilience, positive connections, kindness, meaning, empathy, compassion, positive interventions, lifestyle change, and positive organizations. One basic premise of positive psychology is that human flourishing – a life rich in purpose, positive relationships, and enjoyment – will not result simply by curing pathology and eliminating behavioral and emotional problems. Rather, flourishing requires us to build and capitalize on human strengths and capacities. Another basic premise is that human flourishing involves unlocking or building potential resources and capacities at multiple levels – in people, and also within teams, groups, communities, and institutions.

This course will challenge you to engage with the core topics and foundational research and theories of positive psychology. Coursework will involve reading, viewing video resources, individual and group experiential exercises, as well as personal reflections. This is also a search-exposure course, in which you will help design and carry out a course-based research project to test the effects of various positive interventions. Together with your classmates, you will provide data over a period of 4 weeks. Individually, you will draw on and analyze a portion of these data to write your Final Research Paper. Throughout the semester, you will receive assistance with this research project from both me and our Graduate Research Consultant (GRC), Khoa Le Nguyen, who is a fourth-year doctoral student specializing in positive psychology. The GRC Program is sponsored by the Office for Undergraduate Research ( I encourage you to visit this website to see other ways that you might engage in research, scholarship and creative performance while you are at Carolina. I have designed the course in this manner with the hope that, as you learn about positive psychology and the research process, you will also learn about how to enhance your own health and happiness as well as that of the communities and organizations in which you reside and work.

Tags: positive psychology , Resilience , Happiness

Topics: Positive Meaning & Purpose

Related People: Barbara Fredrickson

Positively Leading People and Organizations

Taught by Lloyd Sandelands, University of Michigan

MO 302

This course will help you learn how to create, foster and manage organizations where people thrive and perform at their best. It makes the case that individual and group thriving is the key to organizational excellence.

Tags: organizational leadership , positive leaders , thrive

Topics: Positive Leadership

Related People: Lloyd Sandelands

Post-Graduate Seminar on Positive Organizational Scholarship

Taught by Mari Kira, Aalto University School of Science, Finland

This seminar concentrates on the field of Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS). When seeking to develop individuals and organizations, the focus is often placed on correcting what is wrong. However, the aim of POS is to focus on strengths, resources, and potentials on the level of individuals, groups, and organizations. Therefore, POS develops understanding of how positively deviant (rather than only neutral or negative) phenomena and processes in individuals and organizations at work emerge and can be supported. It addresses generative dynamics at work and explores various enablers and mechanisms of individual and organizational well-being. POS also draws attention to positive organizational phenomena earlier neglected (e.g., compassion in organizations).

Tags: Positive Organizational Scholarship , problem-solving , positive solutions , positive psychology

Topics: Positive Leadership

Related People: Mari Kira

Research in Organizational Behavior

Taught by Belle Rose Ragins, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


This doctoral seminar offers an introduction to established and emerging trends, theory, and research in the field of Organizational Behavior. A session on POS is included at the beginning, and POS readings are integrated throughout the course.

Tags: organizational behavior , Positive Organizational Scholarship

Topics: Positive Practices , Positive Relationships

Selected Issues in Organization Theory

Taught by Abraham Carmeli, Bar-Ilan University Graduate School of Business Administration


Abraham Carmeli taught this course on positivity in organizational life to MBA students.

Tags: organization theory , research development

The Art and Science of Thriving in the New World of Work

Taught by Gretchen Spreitzer and Betsy Erwin, University of Michigan

MO 468

As students launch into their post-undergraduate journey, they will experience a great deal of change. Some they can anticipate: new geography, new schedule, new dress code, new boss, new coworkers, etc. Other changes may sneak up on them: personal impact of evolving business landscape, job loss, challenging relationships with managers and colleagues, changing personal priorities, etc. This course introduces students to the science in several related fields to help them learn to thrive for personal and professional success in the new world of work.

The new world of work might be characterized by more flexibility and uncertainty, more people are switching jobs and careers at a frequent clip. Sometimes this is by choice to learn new skills or move up the career ladder. Other times, employees may be choosing a more freelance or entrepreneurial career path. And for others, the choice to change jobs may be forced through corporate restructurings or displacement due to technology.

In this course, students will reflect upon and synthesize their academic studies and action learning experiences to proactively craft a meaningful career and life. Specifically, they will learn to reveal and leverage their knowledge to adapt to their evolving professional and personal priorities, and the changing business world.

Tags: Thriving , action-learning , new world of work , capstone

Topics: Positive Meaning & Purpose , Positive Leadership , Positive Practices

Related People: Gretchen M. Spreitzer , Betsy Erwin

Work, Wisdom, and Happiness

Taught by Barry Schwartz, Swarthmore College

N300 Chou

Sigmund Freud was wrong about many things, but one big thing he seemed to be right about was that love and work are the main determinants of human happiness. In this course, we will explore what it takes for work (and love) to be both satisfying and effective. We will begin by discussing “happiness”—what it is, what affects it and why it matters. We will also discuss how effective people are at making decisions that promote their happiness.

Tags: Happiness , love , decision-making , effective work

Topics: Positive Meaning & Purpose