Leadership: The P’s & Q’s of X’s & Y’s


David McLean, M.B.A., Ph.D., Partner, Soulzatwork, a division of T.S.C. Inc

bh in Brief

Soulzatwork is based in Toronto, Canada, and serves clients across North America by delivering

fully-customized team development programs and

one-on-one executive leadership coaching, consulting and development training.


The Soulzatwork team includes seasoned business professionals who have held leadership positions in the high-tech, healthcare, pharmaceutical, and not-for-profit sectors. Its members have leadership experience in sales, marketing communications, business development, human resources and consulting.

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David McLean 647-383-7685


info@soulzatwork.com david@soulzatwork.com



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The story of humankind is riddled with tests of ingenuity, resilience and compassion. It chronicles the actions of leaders, and the rise and fall of the organizations in which they serve. A multitude of forces have always been at play, colliding to challenge the best of businesses.  Arguably, it has been the quality of leadership that has been key to the capacity of organizations to survive, if not to thrive, through such challenges.  But what are the specific leader attributes that foster organizational resilience? Can these qualities be learned?  And are some of us more predisposed to these traits than others?

Relationships are Fundamental

These questions have underscored the research interest of many leadership scholars who have focused on a wide range of topics from concepts such as transformational leadership to emotional  intelligence. Emerging from this research is a commonly held belief that fundamental to creating positive culture and resilient organizations are the relationships we create and nurture in our organizations. 

My own work confirms that in such organizations social exchanges between leaders and followers evolve over time into relationships characterized by trust, commitment and connection.  Followers have opportunities to develop a positive sense of self and are inspired to contribute at their best.  Research has shown that positive emotions such as joy, contentment, love and interest blossom within organizational settings and infuse relationships with an evolved sense of friendship or familiarity. Such relationships become a lasting resource that can benefit organizations in times of challenge and change.  

The Tri Fit Example

One way to understand what may be called “relational leadership” and its impact on an organization is to use an organizational storytelling approach. For example, I recently applied the approach within Tri Fit,* a Canadian health promotion and fitness company.  Tri Fit employs 78 full time staff and approximately 125 contracted individuals.  Eighty eight percent of the workforce is female, and the organization, founded by two women more than

30 years ago, continues to be co-led by them.  Given that evidence suggests that women are likely to have a greater capacity to build relationships than men, I expected my research to show that Tri Fit had a strong relational culture. Twenty seven confidential one-on-one interviews and 240 unique stories later, my expectations were confirmed. 

Within Tri Fit there is an extraordinary commitment to relational practice throughout the organization as revealed through stories retelling the daily interactions of its members.  This research also established evidence that relational leadership can be learned and developed, and when present, confers positive benefits on the organization including enhanced loyalty, commitment and productivity, as well as improved client experiences, outcomes I refer to as the Return on PositivityTM or ROPTM.  

Leadership Development

So what does this tell us about leadership, and specifically the potential contribution of women to organizational narratives?  There is strong evidence that women have an advantage over men in their capacity for developing relationships. Further, evidence clearly shows that women’s capacity for relational development can be exercised to advantage within organizations interested in creating positive and consistently high performing cultures.  The fact that this quality has been found responsible for positive organizational benefits and is an inherent strength amongst women tells us that it should inform leader development initiatives for women. 

 As women consciously develop themselves from their natural position of strength, the performance and resiliency of organizations will be positive beneficiaries.  This is an invitation, therefore, for organizations to mind the P’s and Q’s of X’s and Y’s and focus on relational development as a cornerstone of development programs for women.



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