The power of positive leadership: Your energy affects those around you

On Oct. 17, Masaru Emoto, Japanese author and entrepreneur, passed away. His last word was “Arigato” (“Thank you” in Japanese).

For more than 20 years, Dr. Emoto studied the effects of energy on water.
While scientists have challenged his assertions, Dr. Emoto believed that human consciousness has an effect on the molecular structure of water.
“Water is the mirror that has the ability to show us what we cannot see,” he said. “It is a blueprint for our reality, which can change with a single, positive thought. All it takes is faith, if you’re open to it.”

Dr. Emoto’s experiments, described in his New York Times bestseller, “The Hidden Messages of Water,” consisted of exposing water in glass vials to different words, pictures or music, and then freezing the water. He examined the crystals with microscopic photography. Emoto claimed that water exposed to positive speech or thoughts – and intention – will result in “beautiful” crystals being formed when it is frozen, and that negative intention and words tend to yield “ugly” frozen crystal formations.

I was introduced to Dr. Emoto’s work a number of years ago at Millennium Park in Chicago. Panels of his water crystal photographs hung throughout the park. I remember the experience of excitement as I wondered, “What if he’s right?”
Energy intention and human dynamics
Dr. Emoto believed that if conscious intention can impact the molecular structure of water, it can likewise impact the health and wellbeing of humans. While the exact percentage of water makeup in the human body varies, most scientists agree that more than 60 percent of the human body contains water.
Applying Dr. Emoto’s theory to humans, he believed that our interactions with one another significantly impact our energy, our wellbeing and our productivity.
Similar studies have been conducted over the years by psychologists interested in the impact of positive messages in the workplace.
Tom Rath is the author of the bestseller “How Full Is Your Bucket?” In his work, Rath presents a concept identified as “the magic ratio,” positing that small, seemingly insignificant interactions can boost productivity. The magic ratio refers to the number of times we receive positive messages versus negative messages in the workplace.
Scientists, over the past decade, have explored the impact of positive-to-negative interaction ratios in our work and personal lives. They have found that this ratio can be used to predict workplace performance.
Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson and mathematician Marcial Losada found that work teams with a PNR (positive/negative ratio) greater than 3:1 were significantly more productive than workgroups that did not reach this ratio.
As we consider our own experience, we appreciate the power of positive leadership in the workplace. When a leader demonstrates his or her appreciation for what goes well, the dynamics within the organization are significantly impacted.
In a recent coaching meeting, one of our clients talked about the shift he has made in his leadership focus. Paul readily admitted that he had been conditioned to put the spotlight on the gap between what is and the ideal. He often criticized employees publicly for mistakes they had made. Within the last several months, however, he has consciously made a change. He communicates his appreciation for what is going well. He has redirected the spotlight on what is working well, acknowledging the contributions of his team and employees. When there are mistakes or when goals are not met, issues can be resolved and solutions can be found to advance the organization’s mission and goals.
Paul’s direct reports and employees report that the atmosphere in the workplace is different. They feel appreciated and valued for their contributions, and much less fearful about making mistakes. (Not surprising is the fact that there are fewer mistakes and many more successes!)
In an example offered in “How Full is Your Bucket,” Rath relays a story about a CEO whose favorite line to employees is, “I’ve been hearing a lot of good talk behind your back.”
What positive leaders accomplish
Rath writes that, “Positive leaders deliberately increase the flow of positive emotions within their organizations. Studies show that organizational leaders who share positive emotions have workgroups with:

  • A more positive mood
  • Enhanced job satisfaction
  • Greater engagement
  • Improved performance

What differentiates positive leaders from the rest? They view each interaction with another person as an opportunity to increase his or her positive emotions.”
Dr. Masaru Emoto would agree. “If you open your eyes, you will see that the world is filled with so much that deserves our gratitude,” he said. “When you have become the embodiment of gratitude, think about how pure the water that fills your body will be. When this happens, you yourself will be a beautiful shining crystal of light.”
Karen Vernal is the president of Vernal Management Consultants LLC, a Milwaukee-based leadership and organizational firm dedicated to “igniting the spirit and skills of leaders.” The company is one of two firms in the nation to be certified in Emotional Intelligence through the Institute for Health and Human Potential. For more information, visit

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