Prof Lea Waters
Professor Lea Waters, PhD, is the Founding Director and Inaugural Gerry Higgins Chair in Positive Psychology at the Centre for Positive Psychology, University of Melbourne where she has held an academic position for 24 years.
Lea is one of the world’s leading experts on Positive Education, Positive Organisations and Strength-Based Parenting and Teaching. As a University researcher, Lea turns her science into strength-based strategies to help organisations, educators and parents around the world build resilience in their employees and children, helping them to thrive.
Lea is the President of the International Positive Psychology Association, serves on the World Happiness Council’s Council of Happiness & Education, and is the founding Director of the Centre for Positive Psychology at the University of Melbourne, where she’s worked for more than 20 years.
Lea helps parents, educators and organisations make a small switch that makes a big difference in overall wellbeing.
As humans, we’re wired to focus on the negative and zoom in on what’s “off” — which can be hugely helpful when your life’s at stake, but for most of us, it’s a survival mechanism that’s outdated, and doing more harm than good. Lea proposes a better way for doing things. She says we can short-circuit our negative defaults by making a mental switch that flicks to shift our attention from weaknesses to strengths, and from the negative to positive news around us.
In her TEDx talk, Warning: Being Positive Is Not For The Faint Hearted, Lea explores how we can spread positive messages in an effort to override the dominant message of fear and scarcity and make a collective difference in the world by spreading hope and happiness.
In her book, The Strength Switch, Lea says that the strength-based approach gives us the power to live the good life by drawing on our most abundant inner resources (our strengths!) When we use the strength-based approach with children, they internalise the idea that they have strengths, and they learn to use them to take charge of their life.
Three decades of research clearly show the advantages of taking a strength-based approach for children and adults alike, including: great levels of happiness and engagement, better work performance, increased levels of self-esteem, and enhanced ability to cope with stress and adversity. Lea is passionate about helping people all over the world make the Strength Switch.
Lea has worked with the Chinese International School in Hong Kong, Ridley College in Canada, and Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School in the U.S., as well as
hundreds of schools in Australia. She holds affiliate positions with Cambridge University’s Well-being Institute and the University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizations; and has spoken at the European Positive Psychology Conference, the Mexican Conference on Happiness and the International Positive Education’s World Congress, to name few. Lea is also the Patron of Flourishing Education Japan.
Her Positive Detective and Visible Wellbeing programs are being used by schools in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Finland, Mexico, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Ghana, New Zealand and Australia.
Lea’s book The Strength Switch has been translated into Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese, Japanese, Hungarian, Arabic and French. It was also named one of the top reads for 2017 by Greater Good Magazine, one of the top five best books on happiness for children by Five Books, and was the top new release in the parenting category on Amazon.
Lea was featured in the ABC TV documentary Revolution School, and has been featured in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, TIME, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and Success Magazine. As a researcher, she’s published more than 100 scientific journal articles.
In 2015, Lea was listed as one of Australia’s Top 100 Women of Influence by the Australian Financial Review and Westpac.
Lea’s top strengths include: humor, curiosity and kindness. She lives with her husband and two children in Melbourne, Australia.