Optimistic Leadership

When I first came across this heading I thought that it was some new term for a leader that is always hoping for the best. And I suppose it is a little bit like that. What it actually is, is the ability to see opportunity in every crisis.

In times of crisis, we often spend 80% of our time looking at what went wrong and who was to blame. The remaining 20% is spent on how to avoid the crisis next time. What we should be doing is looking for opportunities to overcome the crisis.

Up until the 1960's, we learned that achievement was the most important goal and the only way to achieve something was to work hard for it. Achievement was superseded by the 'feel-good', 'I'm OK, You're OK' generation hence they lost the ability to see that you have to work hard at something to achieve it and avoid things going wrong.

The new generation/s soon learnt that just turning up at work and feeling happy about yourself isn't enough. When they don't succeed they feel devastated about it, sometimes even depressed.

Optimism develops by experiencing success and failure. When I coach on optimism, some young people look at me as though I am a bit strange. And I am I guess. Nevertheless when they don't understand that failure is temporary and that there are always opportunities arising from adversity it is difficult for them to be optimistic. They still see optimism as just being happy.

So how do you get them to understand the concept of optimism, you model it. When a crisis happens, or perhaps your team has failed to meet its target, there are three key messages to discuss with your team;

  1. The crisis is temporary, it is not eternal.
  2. The crisis is specific, it is one or two things that occurred.
  3. You can only control what you can control,often the crisis happened through circumstances out of our control.

Acknowledge the disappointment, look at the cure not the cause, and move on quickly so not to dwell on the negative. when they see that life carries on and that you are focussing on the positive things they will learn that optimism is beneficial.