Optimism – Why it’s good for you and the work you do.

Practice seeing the opportunity- and see what happens to your results…..

Optimism is so much more than fluff.

It’s something people need from their leaders (and for themselves!) to achieve positive results- especially when times are tough (hello, #Covid19).

As Warren Bennis writes in his essay “The Leadership Advantage”* :

“Every exemplary leader that I have met has what seems to be an unwarranted degree of optimism– and that helps generate the energy and commitment necessary to achieve results.”

To be innovative, energised or forward looking, you need to be open to new ideas, to seeing possibilities, to taking risks (and encouraging others to do the same)– willing to challenge the status quo in order to make improvements or create solutions.

You need to have a sense of adventure, or possibility- and an expectation of success. 

What does this look like at work?

Optimistic leaders are able to give others confidence and belief in their abilities and their potential to succeed.

They’re able to paint a motivating and attainable view of the future, particularly when times are tough: they can move their team members from being stuck with “how things are done around here” and help them see “how things could be done better” or that there are alternatives to surrender, to “make it through.”

Before you think this is just a bit of Pollyanna or Care Bear philosophy that doesn’t work in the real world, consider the reverse:

Those who have a pessimistic outlook typically approach change or challenge with the familiar: “we tried this before”, “it won’t work”, or “it will never fly.” Such individuals often label themselves as “careful”, a “devil’s advocate” or a “voice of reason”.


How can someone who has a pessimistic outlook embrace change over the safety of the known, or exploration of positive alternatives versus acceptance of an unsatisfactory status quo?

How can they encourage and energise people to keep going, when a solution is possible, but requires commitment and perseverance to achieve?

And even if they do, how likely is it that their team will have the confidence and energy to believe and follow them- and do their best work?

Yes, there times, especially when there is serious risk, where a cautious approach is appropriate and desirable.

That’s why Martin Seligman advocates for “flexible optimism” : having the judgement to assess situations and identify those that require a cautious approach, and those that call for optimism; for a “can do” attitude” and taking a chance.

Winston Churchill once said: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Practice seeing the opportunity.

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