Leadership and People Management

Introduction to Positive Psychology

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This technical note gives a brief introduction to positive psychology. The ideas and notions that form the basis of positive psychology emerged within humanism in the 1950s, long before positive psychology was shaped as a movement. Among other things, humanism also spawned the self-help culture and a large body of literature encouraging positive thinking emerged; however, this type of literature was devoid of scientific rigor or empirical evidence. Positive psychology emerged as a response to this necessity to study positive phenomena in a more consistent and rigorous manner, providing evidence and data-driven analyses. It is most commonly linked to the name of Martin Seligman, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania. As president of the American Psychological Association (APA), Seligman encouraged psychologists to re-focus on two of their professional missions , which he considered had been widely neglected in previous years: bettering the lives of others and developing human talent and potential. Thus, positive psychology studies positive phenomena related to human potential and development, what motivations and drivers are behind these phenomena, how they occur and what mechanisms they involve. It focuses on concepts such as subjective well-being, fulfillment, flow, optimism, perseverance, forgiveness, gratitude, etc. Within positive psychology, the identification and development of positive psychological characteristics and human strengths are considered a way to buffer negative mental states, and this notion has been backed up by research carried out in the field. The movement has grown very fast and has been widely accepted by both academics and practitioners in various fields. In terms of positive psychology's application to business, two main movements have emerged within the academic literature: positive organizational scholarship (POS) and positive organizational behavior (POB). The former is more comprehensive and encompasses the study of all types of processes that foster flourishing and prosperity within organizations and their employees, while the latter is solely focused on positive human qualities and capacities. Last but not least, this technical note provides information about the application of positive psychology within leadership and management.
Bibliographic citation: Plamenova Djourova, Nia; Ribera, Alberto, "Introduction to Positive Psychology", IESE, DPON-151-E, 06/2019
Date: 04/06/2019
Author(s): Plamenova Djourova, Nia; Ribera, Alberto
Document type: Technical Note
Department: Managing People in Organizations
Languages: English

Learning objective Leadership programs (open MBAs)