Optimistic Leadership: The Double-Edged Sword

Today we are going to start an ongoing discussion on the management secrets of the lazy CEO. These are just good basic rules of thumb and ideas that you may or may not want to incorporate in your management style. So, the first idea here is that is that people don’t follow pessimists.

Optimism is defined as a tendency to expect positive outcomes. This means that even when bad things happen, optimistic leaders look beyond the events in front of them and focus on the actions they can take to get themselves and their business beyond the current crisis.

The reality is people look for optimism in their leaders. Now it’s a double-edged sword. Have you ever been in a meeting with a CEO who is excessively optimistic and is so optimistic that they have lost people’s confidence because they don’t believe what they are selling?

So, let’s think of it as a view where a positive outcome is on point, where we understand the negatives, but not let them get in the way of us accomplishing our goals. And I’ll give you an example. I had a conversation with a VP that worked with me at one point, John. John was always rain clouds and everything was going wrong. He was in New York and I’m like, John, if this is a serious problem, if you’re going to be a leader here that you’re so pessimistic, he says, I’m not pessimistic. I’m a realist. I said to him, that’s what all pessimists say. They all think they’re realistic and they’re actually pessimists. So, look out for those people, that claim to be realists, but they are actually pessimists in disguise.

I said, look, John, you and I both see the same situation we’re going to get to work. We may get the same outcome, but I’m optimistic and you’re pessimistic and I’m going to have a lot more fun along the way. So you might as well be an optimist.

The big thing is people really are looking for you to provide that positive energy in the organization. And if you’re not optimistic about the future, it’s really almost impossible to do so just to the extent needed, but, fake it till you make it. It doesn’t mean everything’s going turn out the way we want, but we’re all going to survive and we’re going to be fine. Occasionally, everybody has a down day and that just makes you human. The organization is looking to you to set the pace and the energy in the organization, if you’re not feeling optimistic, find a way to be a positive.

Optimistic leaders are better able to help their organizations respond and adapt to changing circumstances, especially where the need for change was imposed from outside. They tend to identify causes of success and failure more accurately, and correctly assign responsibility for both. So, optimism enhances problem solving, decision making and action taking, creating a constructive strategy to get out of difficulty and deliver business recovery.

The great UCLA basketball coach John Wooden said,

“Your energy and enjoyment, drive and dedication, will stimulate and greatly inspire others.” It will not only inspire others but it will inspire you to reach to new heights.