Ingo Kallenbach

"Die Revolution in der Führung" (The revolution in leadership) by Ruth Seliger (2014)

"Die Revolution in der Führung" (The revolution in leadership) by Ruth Seliger (2014)


The world changes - thankfully! And with it also the concepts of leadership. In this article we would like to introduce to you a book which describes one of the more innovative, serious approaches to modern leadership concepts: Positive Leadership (PL). Whether revolutionary is an open question. For regular readers of our Notes not truly new, but: now a new book on this subject has been released. Let’s take a closer look at it.


The author, Ruth Seliger, describes herself as a practitioner with a firm theory. This self-estimate fits well with the book: on 25 pages Seliger provides a short overview of the theoretical principles of the concept: positive psychology, systemic thinking, brain research and new findings of the economic sciences. To obtain a first impression the book is completely sufficient - supposedly it will rather be read by practitioners anyway.
The book itself is divided into two sections: one rather conceptional-methodical part and a practical part in which the application of positive leadership is described. Next to theoretical basics, Selinger describes in the first part of the book the paradigm change that we have been able to witness in society and the economy over the last decades: decentralized structures, a culture of trust, sense and value as controlling variables, living systems etc. All this is correct and gives a short overview of current trends. However, the author then comes to the surprising result that positive leadership is a comprehensive term for this new developing picture and understanding of leadership. With all appreciation for the concept, this is somehow going too far. The real paradigm change on which positive leadership refers back to took place in the formation of positive psychology - namely in the revolutionary speech of Martin Seligman 1998, in which he appealed to the participants at a psychotherapist congress no longer to deal merely with mental illnesses but with what keeps people healthy. This had a tremendous effect and triggered numerous research projects up to this day.
Also unclear remains the derivation of the basic principles of PL stated by her: sense, confidence and influence. At this point the author could have made a clearer connection between the previously unfolded terms.
The methodic-conceptional first part of the book is rounded up by such central concepts as “appreciative inquiry“, which should be more familiar to most consultants in this field, for executives however, it could possibly be an interesting alternative within the framework of surveys or change processes.
The following practice part is well structured in three partial areas: How do I lead myself, how do I build up positive relations to people and how do I develop positive organisations. Seliger illustrates diverse procedures, methods and tools, full of examples from her consulting practice. What comes off badly from our point of view is a description of the limits and implementation failures of this approach. Seliger unfortunately only dedicates one page to this part, but maybe failure is not something that belongs into such a book in her opinion. Too bad. In our view she could have set a (positive) counterpoint to the often made accusation of “social romanticism“. One last thing that irritated me as a male reader in the very beginning of the book: in the preface the author describes PL as a female form of leadership, since leadership has been a “male subject“ for a long time and it has now become necessary to include the female side as well. Not only is the explanation hardly understandable, but also does one as a male supporter feel somewhat obliged to androgyny. What again could be quite positive, since androgynous people have a higher psychic stability and a wider range for solving problems.

Summary: If one neglects the mentioned constraints, we think that this book is quite suitable for executives and organisation consultants that are looking for modern leadership approaches, want to deal with the concept of positive leadership, and expect practical hints for its application.