Leaders Are Optimists

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Leaders Are Optimists

Owing to ever tighter budgets, higher expectations, and a skinny but distracted workforce, the practice of leadership in today’s workspace is difficult enough. We unnecessarily add to that burden and materially hamper our effectiveness when we fail to maintain a positive outlook. How so? Because negativity saps our own energy, and people won’t follow a pessimist very long or far, because it saps theirs, as well.

Think about it. Reliable engagement surveys tell us that our people are less connected than ever to the organization. Job quit rates are rising, causing a lot of our staff to wonder if this is the time they should make a move. If people are trudging into work only to deal with a leader who sees every glass as half empty, it makes for a long day. Conversely, as Mary Lou Retten put it, “Optimism is a magnet. If you stay positive, good things and good people will be drawn to you.”

Just happy talk? No. We’ve all been around long enough to realize that there are days when you eat the bear, and days when the bear takes a big bite out of you. That said, as leaders, at any rung of the ladder and in any organization, we must find a way, without sacrificing who we are, to be “a dealer in hope”, as Napoleon Bonaparte put it. Three suggestions in that regard:

  1. Practice good self care. Attend to your own health. It’s hard to be upbeat when you’re tired or ill. Take breaks during the day. Get up, go outside, take a walk (or run). Adopt a hobby that requires total concentration and still offers relaxation (e.g., fly-fishing or flying). Establish a buddy system with a friend where you will call one another out, and offer a friendly ear or shoulder when needed. If you need to talk with a professional, do it.
  2. Take steps to surround yourself with positive people. The whole atmosphere changes when negativity is reduced. Be careful how much mindspace you give up to negativity. As Robert Tew put it, “Don’t let negative and toxic people rent space in your head. Raise the rent. Kick them out.”
  3. Create a bucket list. It’s amazing the positive energy you can get from anticipating doing one of your bucket list items. I’ve got one that I actually put on my LinkedIn page just to force myself to do it, and it’s coming up in a couple weeks. Look out NOLA!
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