Appreciation for Appreciative Leadership

Sections of this topic

    Bias for Appreciative Leadership

    This blog entry – consistent with my entry from October 7 — is a commentary on Whitney, Trosten-Bloom, and Rader’s book Appreciative Leadership: Focus on What Works to Drive Winning Performance and Build a Thriving Organization. I want to be transparent about my biases related to this current series of blog entries on Appreciative Leadership (AL). I am a big advocate and believer in Appreciative Inquiry (AI) and have been using it in my work with organizations for many years. I have also been trained in AI by Amanda, Diana, David Cooperrider, and numerous other AI thought and practice leaders. Now while my wholehearted faith in the principles of AI might predispose me to an automatically favorable response to AL, having a strong familiarity with AI should also equip me to proffer an informed, honest, and critical analysis of the author’s integration of AI into a leadership model. I hope that this balance of bias and knowledge will make for some worthwhile and helpful commentary.

    In a nutshell, I am pleased with AL as a leadership model. My opinion is that AL, and the Five Core Strategies in particular, provide a wonderful framework that consultants can use in leadership development, executive coaching, succession planning, organizational change, and a myriad of other areas. My initial reaction to reading the AL book was to assess how consistent the model was with the core principles of AI itself. Once satisfied that there was indeed a high level of alignment, my second response — not unlike that of Shona Garner in her response to my original blog on AL – was to assess how clear, tangible, and applicable the core elements of AL might leaders and this consultant, like myself, that work with leaders. In my estimation, the AL model of leadership put forth by Amanda and her co-authors provides a coherent and accessible initial framework that is nicely grounded in theory, examples (aka stories), and competencies (i.e. knowledge, skills, abilities, and qualities). I would like to provide a quick overview of some of the KSAQs that are explicit (or that I am interpreting as KSAQs) in the Five Core Strategies as outlined by Amanda in her October 13 blog entry.

    Strategy 1: Inquiry

    • Emphasizes “asking” over “telling”
    • Employs purposefully positive and value-based questions
    • Invites people to share thoughts, feelings, stories of success, and ideas for the future
    • Cultivates environments in which people feel both empowered to make decisions and take risks, and encouraged to learn, experiment, and innovate

    Strategy 2: Illumination

    • Actively seeks to discover the unique skills, abilities strengths, and positive potential of every person and situation
    • Looks and listens for what works, when individuals and groups are operating at their best
    • Share stories of success and disseminate best practices
    • Anticipates and it seeks to fulfill people’s need for recognition and celebration
    • Aligns strengths by providing opportunities for people to do more of what they do well
    • Finds opportunities to facilitate collaboration with others whose strengths are complementary

    Strategy 3: Inclusion

    • Acknowledges and addresses people’s need for belonging and creativity
    • Brings diverse groups of people “to the table” for crucial decisions and planning
    • Engages people in a manner that fosters safety and encourages equal voice
    • Accommodates conversational differences
    • Enables people to contribute in ways that are both comfortable and empowering

    Strategy 4: Inspiration

    • Acts in energetically positive ways
    • Uses elevated language and broadly shares uplifting stories
    • Puts forth visions of what’s possible or “hopeful visions”
    • Provides the resources and paths for attaining the “hopeful visions

    Strategy 5: Integrity

    • Demonstrates honesty, transparency, authenticity, and moral or ethical conduct
    • Employs holistic approaches to support the authentic expression of human potential, and to foster the design of life-affirming products, services, and organization
    • Makes conscious choices to serve the whole (i.e., whole person, whole organization, whole world), and encourage or empowers others to do the same
    • Encourages and expects others to know they are expected to give their best for the greater good


    I hope is okay with Amanda that I have attempted to create a bullet-pointed delineation of the Five Core Strategies. It is my default setting at this point in my career to try and simplify and functionalize any leadership approach. I am sure that this is an inadequate attempt to achieve this goal and would be interested if Amanda, or others, think that I am capturing some of the key KSAQs of AL.


    Steve Wolinski provides leadership development, organizational change, and talent management services to numerous public, private, and non-profit organizations. Website, Email.