Is Your Workplace Positive and Uplifting?

At a recent business conference attended by my wife, the keynote speaker with positivity expert Shola Richards.  My wife was so inspired by his message that she had to share it with me that night.  She found this video, and we spent the evening watching and discussing the powerful message.  Shola talks about the meaning of ubuntu, an African word often translated as “I am because we are.”  Shola’s video was a catalyst for my own reflection of the leader I aspire to be.  I desire to be a leader that serves my team. I want to be known as a leader that is present, knowledgeable, and creates a positive learning environment where change can really happen.  

The culture of a school site, or any job for that matter, starts and ends with its leadership. There are bosses or there are leaders.  Please don’t confuse them.

Bosses :

  • Demand
  • Ridicule
  • Undermine
  • Intimidate
  • Lack vision
  • Have a top-down approach to authority
  • Lead from the back.

In contrast, Leaders:

  • Inspire
  • Have a vision
  • Build relationships
  • Value all employees
  • PRESENT on sites
  • Allow their workers to be creative, while holding them accountable.

Leaders are “guides on the side.”  Leaders are helping to pull the weight, humble enough to pick up a broom if needed or help out by taking a recess duty.  Leaders are never above doing what needs to be done.


Picture of a boss vs a leader

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.–Helen Keller

Let’s face it.  We live in a world that is very different from the 1950’s, yet some work places look and act as if we are still there.  Workers today are not the same as yesterday. Baby boomers are on their way out. Industries have changed and now desire different skill sets in employees than those of our parents and grandparents.  Soft skills are becoming more important than hard skills. They are realizing that these are the qualities that drive a successful team and, in turn, the business.

We must do better.  We have to do better.  And doing better means having the right leaders in position to make these necessary changes happen.  We cannot afford to have top-down accountability system anymore as research shows us time and time again that this approach does not work.

Michael Fullan touches on this subject in his book The Principal                    

The Principal_M_Fullan_2014

 Wrong headed accountability is like pushing a train by building up           power in the caboose. It is far more effective to pull humans than try         to push them.  This is why the better alternative to simply demanding       accountability is to aim at building capacity from the beginning, with       an explicit focus on results. (p.28) 

If your boss did not have his/her authority over you, would you still choose to follow that person?– Shola Richards

Leaders need the contributions of the team to make effective change happen.  I have been around both approaches to leading a team.  I have had true leaders that had a vision, they were clear, and passionate.  This kind of leadership had staff going above and beyond to see the success of the operation.  When your leader chips in, gets down on your level, shares their enthusiasm, and makes you feel like your ideas matter…that’s powerful.  It gets you excited to contribute and help everyone achieve something great.

On the flip side, in a past career life, I have experienced bosses that simply gave directions, lacked vision, and were not transparent with staff.  Little change or growth was made. If you only bark out instructions at your staff, belittle, demand rather than inspire respect, why would people want to go above and beyond?  This kind of leadership creates a negative work environment that is cancerous.

My goal is to be a leader people CHOOSE to follow rather than one they HAVE to follow.

It takes more than a title to be a leader.– Shola Richards

Let’s go back to the video that Shola Richards presented in at UC Berkeley.  In that video he pointed out that negative work environments can be salvaged with the right approaches from leadership.  One suggestion he mentioned was having a “no gossip Friday.” This would lead to employees thinking about their actions and its effect on others.  He also mentioned that high functioning teams bring a positive attitude to work every day habitually. Leaders ensure that drama does not make it to the workplace, either theirs or employees.  In any industry, a positive workplace is essential for the success of the customer. It’s hard work, however I believe it is worth

What are your thoughts?  

After watching the video by Shola Richards, do you have any takeaways?

Do you have a leader that inspired you?

I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,



Published by scotthollandwilson

I am an educator in California for the past 10 years. Currently I am working on my Masters in Administration. I believe in giving students real life application to assignments. Follow me on twitter @mrwilson218

2 thoughts on “Is Your Workplace Positive and Uplifting?

  1. Scott. this post is excellent! And I am thinking through this: Leaders are “guides on the side.” Leaders are helping to pull the weight, humble enough to pick up a broom if needed or help out by taking a recess duty. Leaders are never above doing what needs to be done.” This is the leader I have attempted to be and in my experiences, having the right team (or people on the bus) is crucial as well. Thanks for your heart and leadership and all you do for our schools.


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