Is optimism a pre-requisite for leadership impact? With the winter months clinging on for dear life, many people are begrudging the constant cold, and rattling off all the problems that come with it. But this kind of negativity isn’t going to change anything – so why not focus on the benefits and opportunities? The beautiful scenery, for example, or the cosy feeling indoors. Sir Winston Churchill once said: "Pessimists see difficulty in every opportunity; optimists see opportunity in every difficulty." We believe optimism is a pre-requisite for leadership.
Optimism is a mindset that harnesses positivity, sometimes in the most negative of situations. Optimists tend to see a problem as a blip. A temporary, short term issue of someone else’s doing that can easily be resolved. There is, with optimists, always a way out, and always a solution. The pessimist on the other hand would see the same issue as a permanent, long term problem, with no way out and no solution.
So how would they view one another? Well, the optimist would see the pessimist as one who thinks counter-productively. The pessimist would say the optimist is simply delusional. We say that optimism is not about seeing the world through rose-coloured glass; it’s more about attitude, and perspective. Optimistic thinking therefore is a skill that can be learned.
Why bother with optimism you may ask. Optimists maintain a positive self-image and many studies have shown that optimists perform better at school, as well as work, and are, on average, healthier. Pessimists do appear to be less risk averse and so less likely to have an accident.
The optimist leader tends to emphasise favourable aspects of situations and events; he or she sees opportunity where others see uncertainty. This is a choice that optimistic leaders make. Leaders need to lead and so require a degree of optimism. But don’t they take unnecessary risks? Something that is repeatedly cited as strength of successful leaders is learning from mistakes and so if the risks are calculated and any failures learned from then, on balance, the optimistic leader wins out.
Optimism in a leader’s attitude is seen when they are faced with setbacks, and when these setbacks are seen as temporary barriers they can overcome. The problem is attributed to the context, and not seen as a damning indication of the state of the situation. The optimist is resilient and resilience has become a key component in leadership in challenging times.
Optimist leaders communicate and inspire. They elicit enthusiasm for ideas and rally people for a better future, take Sir Winston Churchill for instance. He single-handedly turned around public opinion in World War II with a series of optimistic speeches. In a matter of weeks, the British attitude shifted from one of apathy to one of certainty that they could fight and win. The point is, leaders in politics, sport and business can choose optimism. Leaders can cultivate a culture of optimism by focusing on a strengths based approach, highlighting and working with strengths. Being optimistic is a matter of attitude; an attitude that can be developed and encouraged.
If you too believe that optimism is a pre-requisite for leadership then talk to us today to find out how our leadership development programmes and leadership development coaching enable managers to question their thinking, build self-awareness, use a strengths based approach and increase resilience.
Call Colin Graves at Iridium on 01604 589 675 or click here to contact us now