by Bill, Leadership, Motivation

Life and Leadership Hinge on Optimism

3 Comments 13 August 2012

Whether you are a leader or a follower, your performance (and level of enjoyment) in life hinge a lot on your world-view, specifically whether you see the glass as being half full or half empty. We tend to get what we expect to get.

Nowhere was this better evidenced than in a too quietly covered event in the recent Olympic Games. Common sense dictates that qualification to compete in Olympic track and field events involves a great deal of skill, preparation, and God-given ability. Oscar Pistorius, a South African sprinter, didn’t just compete, he finished eighth in the 400 meter dash semifinal event. But Oscar isn’t just any athlete. He was the first double amputee to compete in the Olympic Games, ever.

Some might say that Oscar came up a bit short in the God-given ability department, by virtue of his disability. But they would be wrong. Oscar doesn’t see it that way. According to him, ‘My mother used to tell us, “Carl, put on your shoes. Oscar, put on your prosthetic legs.” So I grew up not thinking I had a disability. I grew up thinking I had different shoes.” Talk about optimism…

Those of us who are in leadership roles can only turn in Oscar-like performances if we are willing to see the possibilities in people ahead of their shortcomings, to see them as having “different shoes.” This is anything but happy talk. Rather, it is an expressed preference for valuing possibilities ahead of limitations.

Managers who choose to see their people as real, pulsating, idea generating, responsibility-taking teammates will find themselves surrounded by more focused, fired up workers, and will outperform their less optimistic peers by a wide margin over time.

Those are my thoughts. Your opinion is welcome, as always.


A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at



- who has written 228 posts on Contented Cows.

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3 Comments so far

  1. Bob says:

    I know I’m late in reading this, but I just recently finished your book, “Contented Cows Still Give Better Milk”. Great book, by the way! I’m actually going back through it now to take notes.

    As for this article, I’m definitely going to quote you, “see the possibilities in people ahead of their shortcomings”. It’s way too easy for leaders to focus on the errors, problems, and difficulties at hand.

    The funny thing is for people to really give their best effort in overcoming those challenged areas, they have to be recognized in the areas where they are already delivering and where they have great potential; they must feel valued!!

    Thanks for your work, it really is inspiring!!

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Considered thought leaders in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden speak to, train, and coach managers on leadership practices for better business outcomes.

OUR PREMISE: Having a focused, engaged, and capably led workforce is one of the best things any organization can do for its bottom line.



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