Leading With Optimism

Recently I was lucky enough to hear Simon Sinek speak as part of a Virgin Set Up Zoom presentation. One theme Sinek continually brought up throughout the conversation was the importance of leading with optimism, especially during uncertain times. His thoughts around this concept and WHY it is such a critical leadership pillar really resonated with me and so I’d like to share my takeaways with you. But firstly, let’s get clear about what is optimism.

According to Seth Godin – author, entrepreneur and teacher, it is both an attitude and a choice that involves context and focus. How can being optimistic play out in everyday life? Let’s use COVID as an example. There are numerous ways individuals and organisations have continued to successfully navigate their way through this pandemic. Many have changed their mindset by not only acknowledging the impact our COVID experiences have had for all of us but more importantly demonstrating a commitment to finding new approaches to doing things.

Optimism is about having the mindset to look at things more reasonably and objectively. Optimistic leaders will admit that the current climate is difficult and they are possibly struggling – maybe even experiencing feelings of being in a black hole, however, over time, they will develop a strategy and or approach to climb their way out. Optimistic leaders are planners, creators and problem solvers. They demonstrate a commitment to finding things they can contribute too, work on and improve in.

Is optimism different to positivity? According to Sinek, it is. He states positively is blind. By this, he means that often we can perceive things to be ‘fine’ or ‘good’ however this mindset is not necessarily helpful or true. I’m sure you have come across people who give you the impression that they are on top of things however deep down they’re often not – maybe you have even been there yourself!

When you ask the experts like Sinek and Godin, they will say that even in challenging circumstances, you can still lead with optimism ensuring your team stays resilient and connected during uncertainty and can weather the storm.

So can optimism be developed? – I think it can and some tactics I think can support this include: 

  • Embracing challenge as a reason to learn. Yes, we are experiencing uncertainty as a result of COVID but …..
  • Be a role model demonstrating optimism regularly. Optimism can be addictive!
  • Developing a sense of ‘connection’ as a team. Formulate a number of strategies you can implement to develop a greater connection with the people you lead – understanding is the key starting point here!
  • Recall things you are grateful for as a leader. Consider recording these in a journal.
  • Keep things in perspective. Just because you had a challenging day yesterday, it doesn’t mean that today will be the same.

“Optimism is not denial of the current state. Optimism is the belief that the future is bright.”

Simon Sinek

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