A Positive Attitude Is Important
While reading through the recent newsletter that my friends at Boomer Consulting sent out, I read Jim Boomer’s article on Planning for the Future, Whatever It Looks Like. In it, he emphasized the importance for leaders to promote a positive attitude toward the future, even though they may not be fully aware of what it holds. And it got me to thinking.
We hear all the time that a positive attitude is essential to being an effective leader. Your followers expect nothing less. But what happens when you have a positive attitude? Is it just so you are more pleasant to be with? Is it a manipulative technique to delude your followers from getting wigged out with reality? Is it ultimately an exercise in delusion? There must be something more substantial than becoming a walking smiley face.
How a Positive Attitude Works
It is referred to the Stockdale Paradox. While a POW in Vietnam, Vice-Admiral James Stockdale felt it was his duty to keep a sense of hope alive in his fellow captives. So he communicated a sense of optimism that was tempered in reality. Instead of allowing his soldiers to believe they would be released soon, he encouraged them to extend their hope beyond the short term because none of them would be “home for Christmas.”
It was discovered afterward that those who tempered their optimism with reality fared so much better than those who retained a fanciful hope that ignored the present situation. Officer Stockdale demonstrated a wonderful lesson of how leaders can be positive and reassuring, even in the midst of uncertainty and disruption.
Even though definite plans are difficult to make for the coming year, you cannot assume a “wait and see” attitude. Instead, communicate a positive view of the future so that your people will be hopeful and reassured. Your message should be that, while hopeful, it will take time for things to settle into some sense of normalcy. When you accept that things will be better, but not right now, you instill a measure of perseverance in them to work through the present circumstances.
And that’s why you must promote a positive attitude.
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