Leading with Optimism

Effective leaders are optimistic. They are optimistic and confident by nature, and they can convey their optimism to others in ways that are motivating—this is not Pollyanna optimism but a strong belief in their vision and their ability to make it happen.  The optimism of a leader is founded in reality.  Optimistic leaders focus on solving problems not on complaining or making excuses.

People can view the implications of events in different ways.  An optimist sees the positive and attempts to capitalize on each possibility.  Optimistic leaders are more resilient when things are not going well because they believe things will work out for the best.  The optimistic leader believes that negative events are transitional, not permanent conditions.  Optimistic leaders do not assume that a negative outcome foretells all future happenings.

Your employees prefer to be led by an optimist.  They want to follow someone who keeps going and keeps them going to work through downturns in the natural business cycle.  It is disturbing and de-motivating to have your manager constantly harping on what is wrong, what bad things are going to happen, and how helpless you are in the face of such conditions.

Being optimistic is also better for your health too.  Optimistic people experience less stress and stress-related illnesses than pessimists.  If you lean toward a pessimistic worldview, here is good news: you can learn to be more optimistic.  In his book Learned Optimism:  How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, Martin Seligman describes how to feel more positive and experience less stress in a research-supported approach called “learned optimism.”  Likewise, Susan Vaughn, in her book Half Empty, Half Full: Understanding the Psychological Roots of Optimism, applies both self-help and psychology to how we learn to be pessimists and how we can learn to be optimists.

None of the best bosses in my study were reported by employees to be negative. So even when you are under pressure, smile. We know from neuroscience, it will make you feel better. It certainly makes your employees feel better.


Also See

Shawn Achor is the winner of over a dozen distinguished teaching awards at Harvard University, where he delivered lectures on positive psychology was the most popular class at Harvard.


Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top