Leadership Insights: Leading through Adversity with Appreciation


With the beginning of the holiday season, I pause to reflect on all that I am grateful for, including my health, family, friends, the important work of our clients and all whom we serve.

As a leader, I am also thankful for the opportunity to positively influence change by using Appreciative Leadership principles. This focus helps facilitate positive change even through times of adversity.

Appreciative leaders recognize another person’s potential and turn it into positive power. They trust each person has the capacity to make a meaningful contribution. As we continue to lead through unprecedented times, now more than ever, we could use more positive power to fuel resilience and foster teamwork.

The principles of Appreciative Leadership support high performance by ensuring that your team knows they have a mission, feel valued for their contributions and understand the organization’s overall purpose. Individuals know that excellence is expected and that they are contributing to the greater good.

Consider the following key principles:

  • Inquiry lets people know that you value them and their contributions. When you ask people to share their thoughts and feelings— their stories of success or ideas for the future—and you sincerely listen to what they have to say, you are telling them, “I value you and your thinking.”
  • Illumination helps people understand how they can best contribute. Through the practices of illumination, you can help people learn about their strengths and the strengths of others. You can give them confidence and encouragement to express themselves, take risks, and support others in working from their strengths.
  • Inclusion gives people a sense of belonging. When you practice inclusion, you open the door for collaboration and co-creation. This, in turn, creates an environment in which people feel they are a part of something. When people feel part of something, they care for it.
  • Inspiration provides people with a sense of direction. By forging a vision and path forward, you give people hope and unleash their potential. These are the foundations for transformation, innovation and sustainable high performance.
  • Integrity lets people know that they are expected to give their best for the greater good and that they can trust others to do the same. When you lead with integrity, people know they can depend on you to connect them to the whole. Your example sets a standard for others to follow.

As an Appreciative Leader, it is important to cultivate positive emotions within your team’s current circumstances. Even though we will continue to face many obstacles, focus your team on their strength and resilience to move forward in difficult situations. Express appreciation, love and gratitude for individual accomplishments and support compassionate acts toward those in your care.

Thank you for making a difference each day. I am grateful for your leadership.

With Gratitude,

Lisa Thomson, BA, LNHA, HSE, CIMT
Chief Strategy and Marketing Office


The Center for Appreciative Inquiry