As transformational leaders, we’re constantly seeking ways to increase our leadership power. And optimism, for business leaders, is as close to a “magic wand” as you can get!
No matter our leadership type, our mindset shapes not only our own personal performance, but also the way we influence the people we lead. It impacts our ability to guide our teams and companies through challenges, as well as to create a space that allow others to blossom – in any business environment.
And when optimism seems the furthest from our reach – that’s when we really need it the most to become effective leaders and fortify our leadership power.
An optimistic mindset is oriented toward creating solutions, collaborating with others, and uplifting, clear communication – the very things we need to navigate and succeed in difficult circumstances.
As with any skill needed to develop leadership power, optimism can be developed and strengthened.
I was blessed to be introduced to The Optimist Creed decades ago, and it is one of my favorite leadership books. In one of my first true leadership experiences, I struggled. I didn’t understand how to lead a team effectively, and my results showed. Because I was leading a sales team, and we didn’t hit our numbers, I was removed from the position and invited to return to my role as a salesperson.
I threw myself into studying leadership, and that’s when my mentor introduced me to The Optimist Creed. And I was amazed at how shifting my mindset translated into improved leadership skills and results. I’m convinced that optimism for leaders is one of your most valuable “secret weapons.”
Let’s review the 10 core principles of The Optimist Creed. They are presented as promises that you make to yourself.
Leadership Promise #1 is all about resilience – one of the most necessary and valuable leadership traits if you want to strengthen your leadership power. Optimists recognize that no matter how good or bad a situation, it can always be made better.
The goal of this promise is to start nurturing your optimistic mindset, so when things go wrong, you’re able to see setbacks as an opportunity for growth, and lead your team from a place of peace and clarity when the going gets tough.
It’s often said that if you are an optimist, you see a glass as half-full, while pessimists see them as half-empty. My brother had the best definition, though: That no matter what, glasses are fillable. Talk about an optimistic mindset!
Our words have legitimate power. Speaking of health, happiness and prosperity to everyone you encounter is a bit like scattering seeds. You never know what will take root, but you can be confident that your efforts will change the world over time.
That’s why Leadership Promise #2 is all about harnessing the power of optimism for leaders to positively impact lives and even create the results you want within your own life.
You can also speak of health, happiness and prosperity to yourself. Use these questions to keep your mind focused on the positive:
Years ago, Mary Morrissey, the founder of Brave Thinking Institute, asked these questions of a bellman who was carrying her bags to her hotel room.
Over the next 5 years, she returned to the hotel to lead events. At every visit, he would report his results to her. By holding the vision of what his “best day ever” looked like, he steadily progressed in his career, earning promotions to head bellman, then to captain, and on up the ladder.
We can increase our leadership effectiveness and communication skills simply by living the principles of The Optimist Creed.
By deliberately employing the principle of Leadership Promise #3, you can plant the seed of truth that every individual – whether a loved one, an employee, or even a stranger – is a master of their own destiny, capable of achieving any result they desire.
Albert Einstein discovered that everything is energy. To attract what you want to create, you simply have to match the frequency of what you desire.
By helping the people around you feel that there is something in them, you help them shift their vibration. They see their dreams a reality and shift their vibration to match that reality. What a powerful leadership characteristic!
I employed this technique with a good friend, Rob, while we were enjoying a round of golf. A professional golfer for 20 years, Rob shared that he had never hit a hole in one. He believed that it was impossible.
I encouraged him to imagine getting a hole in one – even if the odds were against him. He didn’t take my advice during that game. But just four days later, he called me after finishing a professional tournament. He decided to envision getting a hole in one – and he did it, winning a Cadillac Escalade in the process!
Challenges happen. But how you engage with difficult circumstances determines your success, and this is true across all leadership styles.
Optimism, for leaders who are committed to success, can make even the most harrowing circumstances manageable.
Finding the silver lining in any difficult situation is an absolute superpower. Napoleon Hill, when studying the world’s most successful people, expressed this idea this way, in one of the most famous leadership quotes:
“Every adversity has within it the seed of an equal or greater opportunity.”
No matter what leadership definition you use, one thing is true: The people you lead will look to you for guidance about how to respond during crises and challenges. Use this principle to set a good example and tone for your team, and help them find the blessing in even the most dire circumstances.
A family experienced the power of optimism during a time that initially appeared to be devastating. The father came home from work with the news that he had been let go from his job. His wife broke down in tears, assuming that she’d had to drop out of college and get a job, releasing her dream of becoming a schoolteacher.
But the father had a realization in their moment of despair – that perhaps there was a blessing hidden within this challenging situation.
He was right. Buoyed by a sense of optimism, he went job hunting. And within 48 hours, he had landed a job with greater pay, better hours, and a much-shorter commute.
By staying focused on the bright side of challenging situations, you’ll be equipped to spot opportunities. Plus, no matter your leadership style, the positive energy you put out into the world will help you attract the people and resources you need to keep moving toward your goals.
As transformational leaders, we often find ourselves in places where we have to make critical decisions – decisions that can dramatically impact our teams, our companies, our careers and our lives. If things work out well, you’ll achieve great success. But if they don’t, you risk devastation and ruin.
Knowing what to do in these situations can be hard, even paralyzing. This is where you can strengthen your leadership power and decision making with optimism for leaders.
One of the most powerful leadership attributes to cultivate is being able to discern which decision will help you create the results you want. You can do this by asking two leadership questions:
I encouraged my client Francisco to use these leadership questions when he was facing a big decision in his business.
A professional photographer, Francisco had an opportunity to purchase one of the best cameras on the market for a fraction of its retail value. But even though the purchase would be an incredible deal, it was huge for Francisco – it would take every last dollar he had.
By asking these two questions, Francisco determined that purchasing the camera was the right move for him. It would allow him to take gorgeous photos and videos for the hospitality industry, which was his dream.
A mere 30 days after purchasing the camera, Francisco received an offer for an all-expenses-paid trip to film a number of hotels on the islands of Hawaii. He not only had the trip of a lifetime, he came back with a check that was 5 times what he paid for the camera.
As your leadership responsibilities increase, harness the power of optimism to discern the path that will lead you to your goal by asking these same two leadership questions.
When we achieve a goal, it’s normal to feel proud, joyful and thrilled. But when others achieve success, some people feel jealous or even resentful.
These feelings arise from what Stephen Covey calls a “scarcity mentality,” a worldview in which one believes that there is only a limited amount of good, opportunity and resources. It’s the belief that someone else’s gain is our loss (and is a sure warning sign of a potentially bad leader…).
The power of optimism as expressed in Leadership Promise #6 is a manifestation of “abundance mentality” – the belief that there’s enough good for other people to create great success for themselves, as well as for me to create great success for me. Your win is not my loss. Your win is my win.
We can put this principle into play by celebrating the wins of anyone and everyone – our team members, our relatives, our colleagues, and even our competitors. Celebrating the successes of others tunes your mind into the truth that we live in an abundant universe and that there is plenty for everyone.
When I’m focused on optimism and abundance, I know that I’ll generate more optimism and abundance. If we’re willing to live in a greater level of optimism as transformational leaders, that power can help us achieve our dreams and goals in greater ways than ever before.
Mistakes are a natural part of life – and leadership. No matter what, mistakes are going to happen from time to time. But if you let yourself get bogged down in guilt, shame, embarrassment or any other negative feeling, it will only slow your momentum toward your goals.
You can increase your leadership power by turning mistakes into learning opportunities simply by using the power of optimism. The Optimist Creed advises us to release our mistakes so we can press onto greater achievements. I recommend a 3-step leadership development process:
Mistakes are a part of life. Learn from them so you can grow and achieve greater levels of success. Do this, and you’ll swiftly become one of the future leaders everyone looks up to!
Leadership development doesn’t have to involve formal training and coaching – there are many forms of power in leadership!
You can increase your leadership power in seconds simply by changing your face. You see, your smile and cheerful countenance have the power to change the energy around you in a way that others can feel.
Need proof? Think of how dogs greet their owners. They act as if you are the most amazing thing they have ever seen, and you can instantly feel your mood lift when welcomed by a wagging tail and happy bark.
Use dogs as a role model and your energy, too, can uplift others. And using optimism to increase your leadership power by using this principle is incredibly easy. Just smile and share a positive word or two with the people you meet.
Although staying cheerful “at all times” might seem like a tall order, as transformational leaders, we have the power to observe our actions and choose different actions when we are not in alignment with how we want to live and lead. Which means that we can practice deliberately elevating our energy and presence by living Leadership Promise #8.
Give it a try right now. Whether you’re feeling joyous or grumpy right now, put a smile on your face. You don’t have to feel happy; just make yourself look like you’re happy.
Your smile and cheerful countenance will change the energy around you in a way that others can feel. And, as research has shown, smiling can make you feel better by tricking your brain into feeling happier. Wearing a cheerful countenance is one of the best leadership attributes to cultivate by far.
But when the line between constructive feedback and outright criticism becomes blurred, it can negatively impact the performance of your team. You can increase your leadership power by using optimism to avoid fixating on the flaws and errors of others. Instead, use Principle #9 of The Optimist Creed to focus on personal growth and development.
We often use criticism as a means to avoid addressing our own shortcomings. The things we criticize in others usually are aspects that we dislike about ourselves.
Breaking out of the cycle of criticism requires cultivating mindfulness and intentional action to work on our leadership development. Here is a 3-step process you can use to focus on improving your leadership power:
When we spend time criticizing others, it robs us of the opportunity to transform our own lives. Ultimately, we can change only ourselves. So put your energy and attention toward making yourself the best you can be.
One of our biggest leadership responsibilities is to shoulder the big burdens in business. Opportunities abound to buy into the negative concepts of fear, worry, anger and stress. By shifting our mindset, we’re able to transcend these negative concepts.
The final principle of The Optimist Creed includes 4 parts:
What we focus on will expand. Your leadership effectiveness will increase when you let go of worries, avoid feeding struggle-focused power dynamics, and align yourself with positive concepts such as faith, nobility, strength and joy. Doing so allows you to invite those things to show up more abundantly in your life.
When you live in greater optimism, you continuously cultivate the best version of yourself, bring out the best version of those around you, open yourself up to greater abundance and achievement, and increase your leadership power.
But like any new mindset or habit, practice makes perfect when it comes to building leadership competencies like harnessing the power of optimism. As you move forward, remember that there will be times when you slip back into old, negative thought patterns. When that happens, take a beat and reset your intention for that moment, and above all, be kind to yourself.
Now, it’s your turn to share.
John Boggs is an international award-winning executive with a passion for helping businesses develop tangible strategies for greater clarity, increased revenues and real success. Thousands of business professionals have benefited from his training and motivation. He has personally coached and consulted for executives with the World Bank, Johnson & Johnson, Toyota Motors, The Marriott Corporation, CitiGroup, and Century 21. Known by many as the ‘Action Man’, John helps us do what we know we need to do, no matter what challenges stand in our way.
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