What if I told you that you could boost productivity, increase potential for success, build endurance, improve morale (yours and others), reduce or prevent conflict, and boost value (yours and your company’s) by focusing on a single character trait? Would you want to know what it is? I would. It’s optimism – the mighty miracle for making massive momentum more than momentary!
I doubt that this surprises you, but do you realize how common this character trait is among great leaders? Warren Bennis, was an American scholar, organizational consultant, and author, widely regarded as a pioneer of Leadership studies. He was a University Professor and Distinguished Professor of Business Administration and Founding Chairman of The Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California.
He died at the age of 89 back in the summer of 2014. As you know, his messages live on through his writings and through those who knew and worked with Mr. Bennis. He said that every exemplary leader that he met “has what seems to be an unwarranted degree of optimism – and that helps generate the energy and commitment necessary to achieve results.”
Robert Joyce is the co-founder of Intel back in 1968. He said that optimism is “an essential ingredient. Of innovation. How else can the individual welcome change over security, adventure over staying in safe places?
Optimism is the fertile soil where innovation thrives.
Prerequisites For innovation:
- open to new ideas,
- open to seeing new possibilities,
- willing to take risks (and encourage others to do the same),
- willing to challenge a process,
- possess a sense of adventure, and
- have an expectation of success
Seriously, if you were a pessimist, would you even try to change?
Optimists are great at starting! They will embark on new journeys of self-discovery through learning, or be the initiators of gathering others for the benefit of all. Optimists are good for the economy because they will take the risk and start a business. An optimist believes improvement is a way of life! Failure or results that don’t match their expectations don’t slow them down.
Three of Alan Loy McGinnis’ Traits Of Tough-Minded Optimists:
- Look for partial solutions
- Use their imaginations to rehearse success
- Have a great capacity for stretching
Dr. Martin E. Seligman’s How Optimists View Adversity:
Colin Powell wrote a book called “It Worked For Me” and in it, he says that great leaders know things will get better because they themselves will make things better! If your team doesn’t have a great attitude when facing difficulty, you might look in the mirror. Colin reflects on the wisdom imparted to him by senior leaders in the military when he says that he was reminded “You are the leader and the troops will reflect your emotions.”
Finally, who are you surrounding yourself with? If you surround yourself with pessimists, it’s going to be difficult for you to think anything is going to get better, ever! Warren Bennis said that no one becomes an outstanding leader on his or her own. We are influenced to greatness.
That means that you don’t surround yourself with folks who think exactly like you do. Don’t shut out counter views. If you are going to be successful in ANY endeavor, you have to learn to appreciate the need to work with, rather than against, those with whom you disagree! You can’t automatically dismiss as pessimism any view that is different than yours. The caution offered from another perspective could be wisdom. A pessimist might be more realistic or accurate about dangers and risks, so be careful not to reject those views without some soul-searching.
It’s time for positive change. What one thing can you do today to increase your optimism?
Great quotes from this episode:
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill
“Maybe it can’t be done, but always start out believing it can be done until facts and analysis pile up against it.” – Colin Powell
“We are influenced to greatness.” – Mark Slemons
Resources mentioned in this episode:
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Now, go lead like someone you would want to follow!