Optimism: A Powerful Emotional Intelligence Strength for Leaders

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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.”

          – Warren Bennis

[su_dropcap style=”flat”]T[/su_dropcap]HESE EXEMPLARY LEADERS have a transforming have the gift of being able to convince others that they have the ability to achieve levels of performance beyond those they thought possible. They are able to paint an optimistic and attainable view of the future for their followers: They move others from being stuck with “how things are done around here” and help them see “how things could be done better”.

Another reason optimism is important is to consider the reverse: the effect pessimistic leaders can have on an organization’s creativity and innovation. They typically approach change to the status quo with the familiar: “We tried this before”, “It won’t work”, or “It will never fly”. Such individuals often label themselves as “devil’s advocate”.

Yet, for an organization to be innovative, they need leaders to be open to new ideas; see possibilities not just problems; be willing to take risks and encourage others to take risks. In short, they need to have a sense of adventure and an expectation of success

How to Build Your Optimism Muscles

For some lucky individuals, being optimistic comes naturally. The good news is that, for those who don’t have it naturally, optimism is an attitude that can be learned and practiced. Here are some strategies you can consider in your journey to becoming more optimistic.

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  1. Avoid negative environments.
    If this is not realistic, make every effort to seek the company of positive individuals in your organization. Sometimes this may mean fraternizing with peers in other departments. Stay away from the professional complainer.
  2. Celebrate your strengths.
    The key to high achievement and happiness is to play out your strengths, not correct your weaknesses. Focus on what you do well. If you are not sure etiquette coach image option 22what your signature strengths are, consider reading Now Discover Your Strengths
  3. Manage or ignore what you cannot change.
    When faced with setbacks, identify what you can change and proactively try to find ways to do something about it. We have often heard this advice – it bears repeating. Be inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s words: “While we may not be able to control all that happens to us, we can control what happens inside us.”
  4. Reframe your situation.
    It means changing the way you view and explain events from pessimistic (this is horrible) to more optimistic (it’s not as bad as I thought – I can handle it). It’s not being Pollyanna – rather it involves deliberately shifting perspective and looking for the hidden positive in a negative situation.
  5. Adapt your language and outlook.
    Consider how a simple shift in the language you use can make a difference in your outlook: Do you frequently say: “yes, but….” in response to suggestions? The “but” automatically negates anything you have said in the beginning part of the sentence. A simple shift to “yes, and…” might make a positive difference
  6. Practice patience and avoid shooting from the hip.
    Are you known as the “devil’s advocate”, the one who is quick to shoot down others’ ideas? Jumping in too quickly to negate an idea can derail the creative process. Often valuable ideas are the result of an initial “crazy” thought. At meetings, listen first, speak later![/message]

Smart Moves Tip:

Optimism is especially important in times of chaos, change and turbulence. Those who have an optimistic outlook will roll with the punches, will be more proactive and persistent and will not abandon hope. At the same time, Dr Martin E Seligman, who wrote the book Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life advocates practicing flexible optimism – having the wisdom to assess situations and identify those that require a pessimistic inquisition, and those that call for optimism, for having a “can do” attitude” and taking a chance.

Readers, are you more optimistic or pessimistic? Hs it changed for you as you’ve gotten older? How has it helped or hindered you as a leader?

My Motto Is:
“If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got. Therefore, MOVE outside of your comfort zone; that’s where the MAGIC happens.” To bring that magic to your leadership and business, subscribe to Marcia’s monthly Execubrief: “Business Edge – Smart Growth Strategies” with a insights, inspiration and intelligence on how to build great businesses that matter – those that do well and do good.

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Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle, The Smart Moves Coach, is a national known board certified coach and keynote leadership speaker who guides organizations that are planning, or in the midst of, ambitious growth and change. As a career strategist, she works with professionals, managers and executives who want to build • shape • brand • change • vitalize their careers. She’s been selected by LinkedIn’s ProFinder as one of the best coaches for 2016!Her clients range from private owned businesses to mid-market companies to professional service firms to NGO’s. With 25 years of management, business consulting and international experience, she brings an expertise in executive and team leadership; employee engagement and innovation; personal and organization change; career building and development; emotional and social intelligence. Your Future Starts Now With Marcia!

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  1. Thank you Marcia! Nice article! As regard to optimism… I think you can take it for granted. Those who have a negative attitude, and can’t look on the bright side of life go nowhere. They obsess themselves and those who are close to them. Thank you.