This new study shows how “positive affect” (affectivity) and mindfulness contribute to creating resilient women leaders – here are 4 Ideas on how to empower female leadership in your company
“Positive affect” (or affectivity). Mindfulness. And how they contribute to making more resilient women leaders. A new University of Pretoria study shows the link between these 2 psychological resources and empowering female leadership. Perhaps there’s something here you can learn for your company.
QUICK: WHAT DOES RESILIENT MEAN?
The definition of resilience talks to a person’s “capacity to recover quickly from difficulty” or adversity. And it’s vital, both in life and in business, because we need agile people that can bounce back quickly and adapt fast when needed. You can see how resilience forms through Erikson’s Theory, how it plays out in real life through the Circle of Courage and see a model specifically created for business through the Human Development Cycle. Or get the full overview with our look at resilience theory.
But a new study looked specifically at what could help create more resilient women leaders.
ABOUT THE STUDY: RESILIENT WOMEN LEADERS
Researchers at the University of Pretoria conducted a study called “Positive affect and mindfulness as predictors of resilience amongst women leaders in higher education institutions”, published in the SA Journal of Human Resource Management in May 2020 – see it here.
The study set out to see the effects of two psychological resources: “positive affect” and mindfulness on the levels of resilience in female leaders. (Note: The study was inspired by previous research that showed there’s a strong link between these 3 things.) And they specifically conducted the study on women working in higher education – i.e. in academia and universities. But we can likely still learn from it.
STUDY FINDINGS ON WHAT BUILDS RESILIENT WOMEN LEADERS
In this case, the research proved the researchers’ hypothesis, that “positive affect” and mindfulness impacted the resilience of female leaders, correct. And the study notes that higher education institutions can use this info to help develop better women leaders. But there’s reason to believe it will work outside of higher education too. So, here’s what can help build more resilient women leaders:
1. “POSITIVE AFFECT”
Also known as “positive affectivity”, this is basically your capacity for being in a good mood – it talks to your ability to experience joy, interest and alertness, and how often or likely you are to feel that way. It’s an internal “happy” state. It’s widely studied in psychology, and there’s a lot of evidence that shows you can grow and cultivate your own ability to tend towards “positive affect”.
(As an aside, the opposite to this is “negative affect”, which is when your default way of benign makes you prone to negative thoughts, stress and anxiety etc.)
Mindfulness means being able to focus on the present moment, which is much harder than most people think. See, the human brain is wired in a specific way. A big part of our intelligence and development as a species stems from our ability to see patterns in past events and run “simulations” for what might happen in the future, to play out possible scenarios and pick the best one or more likely route of success.
The problem with that is that you’re never really fully here. Your mind is almost constantly flitting between the past, present and the future. And this can cause distress – you stop experiencing your own daily achievements and it often erodes your relationships with other people when you;re constantly mentally somewhere else.
And we’ve found that you can cultivate and train yourself for mindfulness – practice bringing yourself back to the present moment. That’s why mindfulness practices are such a big thing these days. Mindfulness meditation, apps, colouring books etc. are all a way to “teach” yourself to be more mindful.
SOME IDEAS FOR COMPANIES TO EMPOWER WOMEN LEADERS
The study suggests you bring a focus on “positive affect” and mindfulness into your leadership development and support programmes. And here’s what you could do in business:
1. BRING IN MINDFULNESS ACTIVITIES AT WORK
Create a quiet space where people can feel free to just “be” for a while. Encourage short mindfulness exercises – yoga, meditation etc. – people can do together or on their own at work. Some companies even make taking breaks together mandatory for all staff members, others create communal gardening spaces. The whole idea is that it creates time to practice mindfulness and builds relationships between your staff – the ultimate social capital investment and building great company culture.
2. TEACH PEOPLE TO PRACTICE “POSITIVE AFFECT”
Simply put, show them how to enjoy the little plesures in life. A big thing here is to allow and show people to celebrate small successes. Encourage people to take up and share their hobbies and what they’re passionate about – even at work. You could even encourage regular exercise, or at least create a time and space for people to get some exercise.
3. EQUIP THEM WITH KNOWLEDGE OF HOW THEIR BRAIN WORKS
Neuroscience and psychology is a big focus for us at LifeXchange Solutions. We’re a change management company and all our organisational management services for companies are rooted in science. We always look at how your brain works through neural pathways and automatic memory recall, and we teach this to companies and employees with our neuromanagement focus and especially our neuromanagement workshops.
And the key is that, once you and your team understand how your mind physically functions to drive your and the people around you’s behaviour, you will automatically want to seek our “positive affect” and mindfulness. Just see what people said after our last public Neuro HR Workshop.
4. GET MORE ADVANCED MANAGEMENT TRAINING
We also specialise in more advanced management training that shifts the focus of management from the black-and-white business side of things to what management is really about: People. And we can also help you create a more sustainable organisation by helping your people better support and empower each other through dedicated in-house mentoring training.
PLUS: CONNECT WITH OTHER HRs ON YOUR JOURNEY
If you haven’t done so already, have a look at our new LinkedIn Group on building productive teams. We’ve just started it to create a platform for managers and HR to be able to share ideas and help and guide each other on the journey through the Fourth Revolution. You’re welcome to join it here.
What’s your strategy for inspiring more resilient women leaders? Let us know.
You might also be interested in…
For managers that empower and engage, see our guide: how to develop leaders.
The science of business growth? Get key insights with HR, people and management research.
Get 10X performance skills at a special price right now: We’ve just launched a brand-new online self-management course.
Plus: Check out all this year’s upcoming management and HR webinars.