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Optimism & Leadership Style

“Optimism is not ignoring facts. It’s moving into uncertainty trusting who you are, with the facts, and an unyielding faith about what the future holds.” Kurt Reinhart

What’s your outlook today?

If we open up a conversation about how we see the day, as leaders, it always starts with outlook. It’s our attitude to what lies ahead. Our aspiration and anticipation about what we get to and how we do it, in our own daily walk and through the efforts of our team and organization.

When I have worked with new leaders, I have always been intrigued when they ask, “But what about when you are not feeling it?” It being the tasks in the job, leading others, communication, coaching, etc. In essence, asking if it’s OK to have a bad day, or working in circumstances beyond one’s control and just feeling overwhelmed.

 My answer is the quote at the beginning of this post. There will always be some level of tension in our leadership journey. Each day is a different balancing act of what we know and what we believe. Tip too much on one side, you can easily get a little ‘schrecked’. Too much to the other… Well, happy on its own doesn’t get things done. Management styles of positivity, enthusiasm, or gratitude, or being of good cheer don’t ignore the circumstances. The goal is not making them bigger than our possibilities and opportunities.

 Optimism and Leadership Style

Optimism is defined as hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something. In psychology, it’s defined as a mental attitude characterized by hope and confidence in success and a positive future. Optimists are those who expect good things to happen. A pessimist is the opposite, predicting a less favorable outlook and outcome.

As I firmly believe, leadership is not just what you do; it’s who you are. It’s also how you are seen in all circumstances. You get to demonstrate what good looks like. You get to decide which posture to take, for yourself, your team, and your organization. You may not control the circumstances, but you do control how you respond to them. You choose that.

 Think of people and of leaders you have had in your journey. The ones that always stayed positive. Professionally and personally. What was it about them? How would you evaluate their optimism? What about you?

Start Thinking about Optimism in Your Leadership Style Today

Get a sheet of paper and a pen. Draft your answers to some or all of following questions:

  •  How do you define being optimistic, hopeful, enthusiastic, and grateful?
  • How do you balance knowledge of facts with belief and faith in self?
  • Consider a current circumstance impacting your leadership. How would you evaluate your outlook? What is contributing to that point of view?
  • Have you seen optimism shine through in other people’s management styles?
  • How do you typically demonstrate optimism within yourself and with your team? Where does it fit into your daily routine?
  • When you are in the midst of “rainy days”, what keeps you positive?
  • Imagine you have a team or individual team member struggling. How do you proceed?
  • What are you truly grateful for?

 As you consider your answers, are there any things, any characteristics that begin to take shape? Any commonalities? Take this moment, right now as you read this… what word is top of mind?

How Optimism Enhances Management Styles

Optimism, and whatever feeds it within us, is a lighthouse in leadership. It guides us and those around us. No one really enjoys following a leader who views all things in a negative light. Nobody wants to work for a manager who thinks the worst in people, things and situations. No one dreams of having a boss who doesn’t believe in their team’s ability to overcome failures or hardships. People want to be led by those who see the world with hope and excitement. They want to be mentored by people who inspire possibility and positivity. We are naturally drawn to leaders who see the world through the prism of optimism.

We can easily see the optimistic leaders. They are evident in how they view, in how they live, what they have and what they want. For one thing, they have a “Joy in life” mindset. Doesn’t mean they don’t have bad days. It means they decide to live joyfully, even in hardship. They don’t dwell on the challenges, but rather anticipate the exciting opportunities to come. For another, they appreciate what they have. Life has an expiration date, and each day is an opportunity to do and be better. These leaders consistently give thanks…for their team members and their work. They let them know they are grateful for their efforts and value their commitment. And lastly, they always want the same thing, to be successful. Success is always within reach. They know they can win. It’s better to be disappointed in losing than expecting you’ll fail. Optimistic leaders are always seen as hopeful, and that is seen by the team and throughout the organization.

 Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Your choice.

How to Add Optimism into Your Leadership Style

  • Define and communicate organizational optimism
  • Assess how you demonstrate optimism in your personal and professional spheres of influence
  • Share a goal, objective or vision for the future. Pay very close attention to optimism within your strategy
  • Review a previous setback or failure, consider the best practices in how to best bounce back quickly
  • Evaluate your capacity to inspire motivation in others; review your word choice, tone, and mechanics
  • Create a gratitude list; maybe each day before you step into what comes next

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