How Thriving connects to Leadership

Thriving is that result we want for anything that matters to us. When the activity of leadership is performed effectively, a state of thriving results. Thriving is what we refer to as the universal outcome. If you were to ask someone what they want for the things they care most about, their answer will always be some version of thriving.  

The word thriving originates from Norse and roughly means “to grasp for oneself.” The word denotes seizing the moment to bring about the desired results for the important things in your life. Its original meaning implies that if we want a better state of affairs, we must “grasp for ourselves” in order to make it happen. 

The standard definition of thriving is: to grow or develop vigorously, to succeed, or to flourish. Some other descriptions that also fit: health, excellence, and happiness. Regardless of the exact wording, what we want for the things we care about is some version of thriving. Universally, we want our family and loved ones to thrive. We want our health and finances to thrive. We want our teams, organizations and communities to thrive.  

In order for thriving to occur, certain necessary conditions must be in place. Thriving is rarely a state that naturally occurs on on its own. In order for a state of thriving to occur, some sort of intervention is needed. On the other hand, we can’t directly make something thrive. For example, a garden doesn’t flourish on its own; it requires proper sunlight, the right soil conditions, ample water, etc. We cannot make the garden thrive unless we take specific actions to create the necessary conditions for the garden to thrive. Similarly, we cannot make individuals thrive, however, we can secure the conditions necessary for that individual to thrive.  

We cannot directly make something thrive, but we can create the necessary conditions for thriving to occur. It’s a subtle but significant distinction. 

Thriving is putting into practice one of Stephen R. Covey’s habits of highly successful people: begin with the end in mind. Thriving is the desired end. It’s the state of something that we’d consider to be “optimal.” We are actually quite good at articulating what thriving looks like. To become skilled in leadership, we need to get into the practice of asking that exact question: What would thriving look like for the X (X = to the object in question -- physical, social, or conceptual)?

Returning to the garden example, we don’t make a garden thrive. We assure that the correct conditions are present: adequate sunlight, sufficient water, the right soil conditions, freedom from pests, etc. By assuring the necessary conditions are aligned then the garden should grow. Getting into good physical health could be another example. It’s sort of true to say “I lost weight” but it would be more accurate to say “I put into place the necessary practices and as a result weight loss was the outcome.” In order to produce results. We take actions so the desired outcomes occur. Someone else may have set forth to lose weight but did not get the desired results. We could say that person took actions that were not the right actions and therefore the desired outcomes did not occur.

If thriving is the outcome we want for the things we care about, it’s important to be clear about what your vision of thriving would look like. By teaching you this principle, we are hoping that you practice asking the question “What does thriving look like?” in relation to whatever you want to focus on: a project, a relationship, a meeting, etc. 

Thriving necessitates action on our part. It sets the stage for the actions necessary for the next two core principles of Positive Leadership: Alignment and Engagement.

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