Harvard discovered the single largest predictor of success among leaders and organizations--and what researchers found is that it's not what most people think. 

What sets outstanding leaders apart isn't charisma, influence, or even power. It's not about personality, attractiveness, or even innovative genius. The one thing that supersedes all these factors, according to Harvard, is "positive relational energy," which is an energy exchange between people that uplifts, enthuses, and renews those it comes in contact with. 

It spreads like wildfire, because it's highly contagious. But it can't be copied, manufactured, or forced. It's not the type of energy you can get with an extra cup of coffee or a good night's rest. It's a naturally positive magnetic energy that some leaders have that draws others to them. It's powerful, and in the workplace it ignites the "energy effect," which effectively ignites extraordinary performance. 

The Energy Effect

In studying networks and organizations, what Harvard found was that the groups that outperformed the average had something other groups didn't. They had one person at the center of the organization driving forward motion and well-being for all. 

These people with positive relational energy are what Harvard calls "positive energizers," and they offer an organization a number of benefits: 

  • Increased levels of engagement 

  • Decreased employee turnover

  • Increased workplace well-being

  • Increased profitability and productivity 

What we see is a type of domino effect, where effective leaders increase workplace satisfaction, which increases productivity, which increases profitability--as proved by the strangest, yet most effective Great Resignation strategies. But, simply put, when everyone is happier, everyone wins. 

Beware of False Positivity

We've all heard the mantra "Fake it until you make it," but according to Harvard, superficial demonstrations of "false positivity" are not effective means of generating success. 

While there are benefits to thinking happy thoughts, they're not enough to influence others and induce organization success. In reality, manufactured happy thoughts, or toxic positivity, can lead to decreased workplace well-being, and with that, decreased productivity and profitability and increased turnover. 

One of the main problems with false positivity is that it often leads to overlooking real issues and sweeping stresses under the rug, per se. And, in time, all the little things surmount, turning small issues and stressors into a major problem. In return, employees become overloaded and pressure builds, not wanes, from false positivity. 

You Don't Have to Be High-Energy to Be a Positive Energizer 

The good news is that you don't have to be a super bubbly, overly energetic extrovert to be a positive energizer. What the energy effect boils down to isn't a high-energy leader who simply rubs off on those around them. Instead, it's in a leader's active demonstration of their values.

According to Harvard, what separates positive energizers from others is that they not only demonstrate but also cultivate virtuous actions through the following: 

  • Forgiveness
  • Compassion
  • Humility
  • Kindness
  • Trust
  • Integrity
  • Honesty
  • Generosity
  • Gratitude
  • Recognition 

You probably noticed that all of these traits are, well, very human. And by taking a genuinely human approach to leadership and people management, people feel more understood, valued, and satisfied within their role and within their organization. 

As simple as it sounds, treating people like people lifts up workforces--and their organizations. And it doesn't cost a thing to do. But those who don't do pay the price with increased turnover, decreased productivity, and diminishing profits.

So whether you're looking to build a unicorn or operate a profitable small business, the energy effect holds the key to sustainable, long-term success.