Purpose This study aims to take a discursive view on positive leadership (PL). A positive approach has gained momentum in recent years as appropriate leadership practices are implemented in organizations. Despite the turn toward discursive approaches in organization studies, there is insufficient evidence supporting PL as a socially constructed experience. Design/methodology/approach The present study addresses an integrative discourse perspective for capturing the PL concept as a social process within the public health-care context. Findings Four meanings of PL are highlighted: role-taking, servicing, balancing and deciphering. Research limitations/implications The meanings shift the emphasis of certain PL definitions to a contextual interpretation. For scholars, the perspective demonstrates a multidimensional process approach in the desired organizational context as a counterbalance to one unanimously agreed-upon PL definition. Practical implications For leaders, an integrative discourse perspective offers tools for comprehending PL as a process: how to identify, negotiate and reconcile various PL meanings. Originality/value An integrative discourse perspective provides a novel perspective capturing the PL concept within the public health-care field.