A few days ago, as I watched news of the latest terrorist attacks, I was struck by how easy it can be to experience feelings of helplessness and negativity. This was reinforced during the next couple of days as various media outlets continued to assail me with tales of woe from near and far. It really can be a challenge being positive at times! In my last article, I talked about the things that make a leader great and realised that I left something very important of my list. Effective leaders also need to be optimists and they need to wear this on their sleeves!
Modern organisations operate in environments of great uncertainty and invariably have to deal with plenty of bad news on a regular basis. Whilst much is made of the need for leaders to reinforce the vision of organisations and mobilise the efforts of staff, until recently, there has been little mention of the value of being an optimistic leader. Here are some thoughts to encourage you to accentuate the positive when you are leading others:
- Optimistic leaders see problems as challenges – every workplace has challenges, but rather than frame things as a problem, talk with your staff about this as a challenge to be overcome. Positive talk can give people a sense of having a capacity to overcome issues and lead to better results overall.
- See the positive aspects of difficult situations – sometimes it can be hard to see the light for all the bad news that piles on top of you and others. I once had a colleague who was brilliant at identifying the opportunities in a bad situation. He would acknowledge that a situation brought problems, but quickly move on to the aspects he thought could work in people’s favour. Not always easy to do, but if you don’t try this you will never know if it will work with your people.
- See the positive in people – perhaps one of the greatest advantages of being an optimistic leader is the ability to influence others through the attitude you take to them. Rather than focus on aspects of a staff members behaviour which is negative, identify and work with them on their strengths and be vocal about how optimistic you are that these strengths will enable them to achieve great things. My own experience in working with staff has shown me that your own positive belief in their strengths can make a huge difference in helping them overcome any weaknesses they may have.
- From a purely personal perspective, having an optimistic frame of reference can give you a greater sense of control over situations. When you feel more confident of dealing with a situation it will help you draw upon your own strengths and be less likely to experience feelings of helplessness. This will also act as a good example to others and encourage a culture which values positive action.
Without doubt, challenges lie ahead for most businesses. The leader who can see the positive side to them will not only better empower themselves, but also provide the basis for a workplace better equipped to rise above the big and small problems which confront us daily.