This article critically examines excessive positivity in leadership dynamics. It argues that the tendency for leader positivity to become excessive is a recurrent but under-researched medium through which power and identity can be enacted in leadership dynamics. Drawing on the metaphor of ‘Prozac’, it suggests that leaders’ excessive positivity is often characterized by a reluctance to consider alternative voices, which can leave organizations and societies ill-prepared
to deal with unexpected events. Prozac leadership encourages leaders to believe their own narratives that everything is going well and discourages followers from raising problems or admitting mistakes. The article also argues that followers (broadly defined) are often quick to identify leaders’ excessive positivity and are likely to respond through various forms of resistance. It concludes by considering the extent to which excessive positivity also characterizes leadership studies, and raises additional questions for further critical analyses of Prozac leadership.
This article was published in a prestigious online issue of 'Leadership' called "Rethinking Leadership Research" edited by the Editor of the journal. This Special Issue comprised 7 peer reviewed articles selected to showcase "the excellent scholarship" that has been published in the journal over the previous 12 years.