Turning Talent Potential into Power through Appreciative Leadership

Author: Dr. Justine Chinoperekweyi

Effective talent management is an all time driver of broader organizational outcomes. Organizations need to firmly realize that though systems, processes, business models, and brands are essential to organizational stability and sustainability; taking pride in developing talent has significant competitive advantages. As organizations continually refine their Talent Agenda in order to drive competitiveness and performance, there is need to adopt a leadership approach that aligns the organization’s strategic and operational activities in a meaningful way. The rapidly changing business and talent environment favors organizations embedded in a leadership philosophy that encourages innovation and builds organizations that always scans beyond the horizon and ‘leap frog’ existing strategies.

How can organizations mobilize creative talent potential and turn it into positive power? In line with the third-generation Organization Development (OD) methodologies, every system already has positive examples of what they want more of, or what is needed for a desired change. In context of talent management, this implies that every organization has reservoirs of talent potential that need to be explored and exploited into positive power. Appreciative Leadership supports this premise of third-generation OD methodologies through encouraging talent managers to search out, highlight, or amplify talent potential through genuine inquiry and well-informed talent development conversations.

Appreciative Leadership is defined as “the relational capacity to mobilize creative potential and turn it into positive power – to set in motion positive ripples of confidence, energy, enthusiasm, and performance – to make a positive difference in the world.” This leadership philosophy is premised on the principles of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) and contextual intelligence. The positive, socially generative principles, strategies and practices of Appreciative Leadership are essential in the creation of a robust talent strategy in organizations. This is reinforced by Appreciative Intelligence, which is the product of ‘to appreciate and to inquire’. Appreciative Intelligence has the tectonic capacity to turn talent potential into power. This reality about Appreciative Leadership results from the following traits of Appreciative Leaders:

• Exude a culture of positivity and possibility, thereby effectively summoning people’s best, and elevating inner strengths of every individual.
• Extreme levels of awareness helping the leaders to be humble and driven. This awareness is built through enhanced capacity to see, hear, and speak.
• Engage all people through fostering full voice and designing life-affirming social structures.
• Direct conversations and systematic organization-wide processes.
• Listen, witness differences, and works towards resolutions that satisfy all.

In order to embed Appreciative Leadership principles in the talent strategy of contemporary organizations, the following practices should be institutionalized:

• Relentlessly encourage organization-wide conversations about values and purpose of the organization.
• Reengineer organization’s routines to foster creativity and innovativeness impulse at individual and team levels.
• Encourage high performance cultures and continuous improvement among individuals, work groups, and the entire organization.
• Challenge behaviour that undermines values, purpose and organizational routines.
• Foster emotional engagement of people in order to leverage on collaborative capital.
• Build strengths and collaboratively develop areas for growth.
• Encourage culture of inquiry, openness, honesty, and transparency.

Appreciative Leadership supports the talent agenda in most organizations because it is more flexible, connected to building relationships, sensitive to change, and quick to utilize information. This philosophy contributes to the personal lives of individual employees and to people’s emotional engagement at work. Furthermore, Appreciative Leaders challenges people to be more accountable for their behavior and their performance as partners in the success of the organization. This leadership philosophy accelerates organizational learning and transformation through its focus on stakeholders, achieving a shared vision, critical thinking among all employees, strategic and operational alignment, efficient systems, and Continuing Professional Learning. Human systems grow in the direction of their persistent inquiring, and Appreciative Leadership supports this view. The Appreciative Leadership philosophy heavily relies on conversations, and some examples of appreciative questions that should inform the development of talent strategy are:

a. What is the deeper purpose in your work?
b. Why does it matter to you that you make a difference every day?
c. Can you share a story of when the compassion of a colleague made a real difference?
d. Tell me a story of a time you were part of a team that liberated the best in you.
e. Why does it matter to you that you listen really well?

Dr. Justine Chinoperekweyi, Ph.D., is Director at Centre for Organization Leadership and Development (COLD) Zimbabwe, and Managing Editor of the Organization Leadership & Development Quarterly (OLDQ). He is also Country Director of Chartered Institute of Leadership & Governance – Zimbabwe. Justine is the author of four books including ‘Organization Development Review: Resource for Practice Academics and Instructional Practitioners’. Justine is a scholar-practitioner contributor to the Institute of Organization Development, Organization Development Review, and Organization Development Journal. Email: justine@centreold.com

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