Are you bringing out the best in the people you work with? What leadership skills do you hold? Do you display positive emotions and bring out positive emotions in others? The Intentional Change Theory by Boyatzis helps us look at our leadership skills and how we influence others. It is a model of sustained, desired change for humans for leaders to influence others to make positive changes.

According to this theory, change occurs when people are in the Positive Emotional Attractor (PEA). This is a state where you activate Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) resulting in the body rebuilding itself, and your immune system being engaged to help health. With PEA, you feel positive and hopeful; and think about the future, and dreams. You are more open to ideas and emotions, and are able to explore new possibilities and learning. PEA is also related to having positive relationships characterized by openness and empathy.

Sometimes with modern day life, and the stress of being a leader, we trigger the opposite state which is the Negative Emotional Attractor. In this state, we activate the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and get into fight or flight mode.  Your body tries to prepare to defend itself which can also result in effecting cognitions, perceptions and emotions. We feel negative, and fearful. We think about the past or focus on present expectations of others and problems. We are more likely to focus on weaknesses, and feel obligated to do things because you ‘should’ or because others ‘expect’ you to. In this state, our relationships are usually inharmonious.

In order to have positive changes, and grow as individuals and performers, we need to get into the Positive Emotional Attractor state. Study by Khawaja (2011) has shown that a patient’s experience of shared PEA (i.e. shared vision and positive mood) is likely to result in adherence to treatment in Type II diabetics patients. In other words, when your Doctor is positive and hopeful, you are more likely to comply with recommendations which in turn would make you healthier. Other study in IT showed that PEA predicts effectiveness (In. Boyatzis, 2010).

Positive Emotive Attractor Negative Emotive Attractor
Thriving Survival
Learning Protection
Developing Risk and danger
Creative Fearful
For team: Better innovation Fatigue
Group Commitment Counterproductive behaviours
Productivity Stretches people out of comfort
Engagement May be disengaged
Shared Vision * Single Vision

Nevertheless, sometimes we need stress.  It helps us survive and also takes us out of our comfort zone. We can use stress to grow as individuals by continually moving out of comfort zone and into learning. . Therefore, the positive aspect of NEA is that we learn to grow because NEA challenges us. But most of the time, we are exposed to too much stress. The following ways can help with activating PEA more than NEA.

Mindfulness and Compassion (Boyatzis & Yeganeh, 2013).

You can help a person get into the PEA by promoting hope, compassion, mindfulness or playfulness. Mindfulness is about being in the moment. Are you able to tune into yourself, others and the environment? Do you focus on problems or do you tune into excellence? To be mindful, you could pause and try to tune it. Appreciate your environment, your athletes, and try to be in the moment. As I usually describe it, ‘being in the moment’ is when you were a kid, and you were playing for hours on end, and time flies by because you are having fun. How can you promote this feeling when leading others?

Shared Vision (Boyatzis, 2010)

Another way to get people into PEA is by having a shared vision. Having an image of our desired future and working towards goals with passion and aspiration can help us get into PEA. In teams, sustained desired change can be motivated by bringing people into the PEA in creating a shared vision, and then reminding them about the purpose. Shared vision is a predictor of championing behaviour  and as leaders, coaches, sport psychologists, it is part of our responsibility to help players performance at their best. We can do this by working together towards a common purpose.

Social Identity of Groups (Boyatzis, 2010)

Shared identity for a group, is the sense of belonging and having an attachment to that group. It is promoting the ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘vision’ of the group to create a shared identity. By recalling proud team moments, and discussing values and purpose; the the players can become more aware of the shared PEA and NEA and how it helps or hinders the team. For example. The PEA “pulls teams toward their shared vision or purpose, encouraging them to focus on future possibilities and experience hope as a group” (Boyatzis, Smith & Blaize, 2006). This in return helps the group feel calm or motivated. This reduces stress, helps team members be more open to learning, and increases the sustainability of the team (Haslam & Reicher, 2006 In. Boyatzis, 2010). PEA opens the team up to learning and adapting to change, where as the NEA inhibits or blocks openness or change. That is why as a group leader, it is important to not only be in PEA yourself, but to find ways to get your players and team functioning and feeling at PEA.

ReferencesShow all

Boyatzis, R.E. (2010). Coaching Teams For Sustained, Desired Change. In. Coaching and Creating Better Leaders, Teams & Organisations

Boyatzis, R.E. (2011). When Pulling Negative Emotional Attractor is Too Much to Inspire Outstanding Leadership.

Boyatzis, R.E., & Yeganeh, B., (2013). Mindfulness: awake and aware.

Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R., & McKee, A. (2013). Primal Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great Performance.

Khawaja, M.S. (2011). The Ideal Self Aroused by Physicians Predicting Treatment Adherance of Type 2 Diabetics – West Meets East.

Smith, M., Boyatzis, R.E., & Van Oosten, E. (2003). Motivating Others Through Coaching with Compassion.